my office argued for 5 months about whether I could have an ergonomic chair

A reader writes:

I know you’ve posted in the past about requesting accommodations, but could I gather your thoughts on below? This encounter at my current employer frankly made me feel crazy — like I was dealing with 12 Dwights from The Office crazy.

I’ve had a long history of musculoskeletal and orthopedic conditions (think 10+ years, multiple surgeries, the works) that make sitting for extended periods of time difficult. Fortunately, with a few accommodations (standing desk, ergonomic chair), I’m actually pretty pain-free these days. However, if I don’t have said accommodations, I’m in a lot of pain and very uncomfortable.

It all started earlier this year when our office was requesting us to come back to the office two days a week. I started going back to find that I was incredibly uncomfortable. Our office chairs are not good, and I would be in excruciating pain almost immediately.

I spoke to my manager about this, and she suggested I reach out to our Office Operations team. I explained my situation to them and asked if there was another chair I could use. We went back and forth about whether I needed a chair. After about a month of discussion, I submitted a doctor’s note that explained my health history, hoping this would speed things along.

Instead, this led to a five-month (yes, five months) ordeal over processing my accommodation. When I say it felt like an episode of The Office, I kid you not:

1. HR submits my request to a third party to process. I follow up with HR every two weeks to no response, and have no access to contacting the third party. Office team also starts pinging HR for about a month after me with no response.

2. HR follows up two months later to inquire if the ticket I submitted could be closed. I explain I don’t have my accommodation and have been trying to contact them. HR realizes they never submitted my doctor’s letter to said third party and submits it 3+ months after I gave it to them.

3. Third party says doctor’s note is insufficient. I go back to my doctor and obtain a very detailed note. Third party says the second doctor’s note is still insufficient and request will probably not be granted. Third party also says hilarious things like my doctor “probably doesn’t exist because we tried calling them once and got a machine.” Every time third party calls, it also feels like they are calling me from a grocery store or something, because I hear a scanner in the background continually beeping as if they are near a checkout counter. I push back, saying that I feel we are splitting hairs here, that the doctor’s note is more than enough, and that I will go back to HR to discuss.

4. HR takes two weeks to schedule a meeting with me. In that time, my ergonomic chair gets approved (yay!). I still hold the meeting with HR and explain what happened with the third party and my concerns.

5. HR tells office team to purchase ergonomic chair. Two weeks go by and I follow up with HR about chair. Office team either doesn’t respond, or flat out lies when saying they reached out and are waiting on me to respond when they haven’t. I explain to HR that I haven’t heard from them, etc. HR escalates, but does not have much of an impact. Other Dwightian discussions occur, such as where the chair should be stored since it’s an open floor plan, we have no closets, and someone might steal the chair. There is talk of chaining the chair to a desk, forcing me to come into the office for five days instead of two to ensure I am sitting in the chair every day and no one takes it, etc. They finally also give me a permanent desk (again, open floor plan), and sincerely debate kicking out a C-suite executive (essentially my grandboss) from their desk/chair so I could sit there. I push back and say this would be totally inappropriate, but yet again this is the logic I’m dealing with.

6. Chair is finally ordered just over a month after accomodation was approved. From the day I began this request, it took five and a half months to get the chair I needed. Chair has not arrived yet, but fingers crossed that it arrives on time in the next few weeks!

My question to you is — was any of this normal? Should this have taken this long for an ergonomic chair?

The other issue I feel is starting to occur is I think my manager is starting to get upset. I explained to them when I first started this that given how painful the chairs are (I was literally in pain within 15 minutes of sitting) and I did not feel comfortable coming into the office until my accommodation was sorted out and would continue to work from home. I don’t think they really liked this, but they probably thought this would take a few weeks. I don’t think my manager is happy with how long this took and am worried they will blame me or even worse, retaliate, overlook me for promotions, etc. How do I explain that this wasn’t totally my fault and that I did everything I could to move this forward? I’ve tried explaining in further detail to them, but they do not want to hear it. Is there any way to encourage them to hear me out?

Was this a solid gold chair inlaid with rubies?

If not: No, none of this was normal or reasonable.

In fact, in trainings for employers on how to handle employee accommodation requests, ergonomic chairs are commonly used as a mundane example to illustrate “if it’s easy and inexpensive to say yes, just do it without making people go through a bunch of bureaucracy.”

Your company apparently didn’t get that training.

This is ridiculous. All the staff time they spent going back and forth with you on this almost certainly added up to more than the cost of the chair itself.

Reasonable employers would just get you a fricking chair you can sit in without pain. Done. If they insist on paperwork, fine — but it should be a few weeks at most.

I’m tempted to blame the third party vendor your company uses for accommodation requests but your HR team (a) dropped the ball with sending them the letter, (b) should have stepped in when they realized the process was taking months, (c) should have pushed back on the claim that the second doctor’s note was insufficient, and (d) should have a problem with their vendor accusing employees of making up fake doctors. Your HR team also sucks for (e) making things so much more complicated than they needed to be with the logistics — considering making you come in five days a week rather than two to ensure no one steals the chair?! I’m surprised there wasn’t talk of getting the chair its own security guard.

As for your manager … it’s possible that their frustration is with the situation, not with you. It certainly should be! But if it’s directed at you — which would be illogical and unfair — then it might be wiser not to bring it up again right now and just let the chair drama end. Or at least, to give them a few months of living free of chair discussion … and then a few months from now, when they’ll presumably no longer be as sensitive to the chair discussion never seeming to end, consider saying, “I was really caught off-guard by how long that accommodation process was, and I wonder if you have any advice on whether I could have managed it differently on my end.” Obviously that’s not the discussion that’s warranted here — in a just world, the discussion would be “WTF is wrong with our HR department and how can we ensure this doesn’t happen to someone else?” — but it might be a way to reinforce that you too thought it was absurd and open up a discussion if they saw it differently than you did.

We need an update if/when the chair arrives.

Read an update to this letter. 

{ 338 comments… read them below }

  1. EMP*

    There are a few people on my team who requested (and got) more ergonomic chairs. The first one took maybe 2-3 weeks, the other took only a few days. My assumption is the first one took longer because the office had to pick out a specific chair and now that’s the default “better” chair for those who need one.
    5+ months, two doctors notes, and all this haggling is completely banana pants.

    With regards to your manager, NONE of this is your fault, and I hope they don’t hold it against you, but I think all you can do is acknowledge it once (“wow, sure glad that ordeal is over, looking forward to focusing on work now that HR is done with the chair wrangling!”) and then just show up for your job to demonstrate that this really was a one time thing and (a) not your doing (b) not about your work.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree with this advice on handling your manager. Make it clear that you are upset about the situation and hated wasting time on this because you’d much rather be doing your job. I hope you kept them posted on the ordeal.

      And that idea of making you come in 5 days for a chair or chaining a chair is the banana cherry on the banana sundae being eaten with a banana spoon. Have they never heard of tape and paper? Just put a sign on it!

      1. SarahKay*

        Blow tape and paper – mine has my name written on the back in permanent marker. I went through two other chairs that did not suit my back before I found this one, and I’m jolly well hanging on to it now.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      At my last job, we had sample chairs for people to test out. If your standard chair didn’t work for you, you submitted a doctor’s note and they would have you go to the storage room where the sample chairs are, sit in all of them, and decide which one was best for your body, and then they’d place an order for you.

      At my current job, once they made the offer I told the HR rep I had a doctor’s note recommending a standing desk and upgraded chair and asked who I should submit it to. She said “oh, we don’t need a doctor’s note, anybody who wants a standing desk or a different chair can have one from the storage room, I’ll make a note for the person who’ll be setting up your work station.”

      It was so easy, I wish all workplaces would do it.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, we are a smallish company but the people we buy our office furniture from have testers – when I needed a new chair, they brought one for me to try – in fact they brought 3 before I found the one that works for me with my issues.
        (The sample ones were all bright orange, probably to make it less likely that people would steal them!)

        Once I found one which suited me after trialing the sample, it was ordered and the only delay was the time it took the suppliers to deliver , which IIRC was about 2 weeks (I guess because we were buying a single chair so they waited until they had a truck coming in our direction)

        I can understand asking for clarification or additional information if you were asking for something that was hugely expensive, and I know once or twice when people have asked for specific items we’ve had conversations where we have asked questions to clarify whether something that’s already available is unsuitable or if they just hadn’t realised it was available, but those have again been very quick queries. (one was someone who asked for an ergonomic keyboard and who had not appreciated that we already had a couple which were available and, as it turned out, entirely suitable)

      2. NYWeasel*

        Yes, this is what my company did. Now it’s a little harder bc of hot desking (don’t get me started), but OP had to go through ridiculous hoops to get an ergonomic chair!

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          That was a big question with the return to office plans and hotdesking. Which I don’t know was ever actually resolved.

          1. Nebula*

            Pre-pandemic my workplace hot-desked, and people who had particular chairs or other accommodations just put a sign on them saying that it was for them only. Afaik there were never any problems with that. We also had a desk booking system, so people who needed the same desk every day because it had their own personal items for medical reasons would just book that desk in two-week blocks. I think they also had the option to go to HR and have their desk taken off the booking system so it was only ever available for them.

    3. oirishgal*

      I’m quite stunned by this. We’ve had laws in Europe since 1992 that anyone who works with a computer for more than an hour a day must be given an ergonomic chair and there are minimum guidelines on basic features. Because of this the “standard issue” chair tends to suit a lot of people however one size does not fit all and so some people need a deeper seat pan or a shorter one, or a seat back with a bigger height adjustment range. After that it’s about additional features like tilt function, rock function etc. 30 years later the “basic issue” chair actually has a lot of these additional functions.

      1. Random Dice*

        It’s wildly illegal, even in the US.

        They requested an Americans with Disabilities Act “reasonable accommodation” and provided documentation of medical need.

        That should have been it. Yeesh.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It sounds like the OP was able to successfully work from home without pain. If OP doesn’t experience any retaliation from refusing to come in, I think that could be considered an alternate accommodation that was allowed by the company.

          If the OP suffers any professional consequences, that probably pushes it to illegal.

    4. KateM*

      There could have been other details to iron out (do we need a doctor’s note etc) which needed to be decided once and for next requests went with precedent.

    5. Kyrielle*

      The only reason my ergonomic chair back in the day took more than two weeks is because they scheduled an actual ergonomic evaluation and also adjusted a few other things in the process – which helped a lot. And I don’t have the kind of medical need the OP does, I’m just short and couldn’t get floor + chair + desk into a combo of heights that actually let me sit correctly!

    6. Random Dice*

      Your company is lucky you didn’t sue for disability discrimination, and/or report them to OSHA.

      Please feel free to find another job, call OSHA after you leave, and maybe even also sue them.

    7. DorothysShoes*

      Regarding the manager, not only is this not OP’s fault, but the manager should have advocated for OP! The manager should have stepped in wherever possible, especially with HR, and explained why the chair was needed in order for their team member to be able to work productively.

      I can understand why Alison gave the advice she did, because such an inept manager probably wouldn’t be anything other than defensive in the short term, and time will temper that. But I’m so sorry, OP, that you have to deal with a clueless manager on top of everything else.

      I’m dealing with severe pain, myself, and can testify that people who haven’t experienced it don’t really understand the impact of it. It’s not possible to be in agony and do your job.

    8. Still trying to adult*

      I’ve seen a whole career-load of similar examples; I think there is a big difference between ‘Acknowledging’ a request, and ‘Approving’ a request. Too many people think that their job function of ‘acknowledge request and process forward’ is interpreted as ‘I am authorized to approve/deny request.’

      An age ago I ran across the book ‘Up The Organization’ by Robert Townsend; in it he relates an earlier instance of requesting one of those new-fangled electronic calculators for his job. He took the request form to Accounting, who asked him if it was in his budget. Since it was not, Accounting said ‘NO’. Even tho the time savings to his job would more than pay for it in a very short time. BTW: His solution to this petty functionary was to hand him a resignation letter to sign to acknowledge receipt, because Robert didn’t want to work for such a tight restrictive organization.

      Accountant backed down and ‘approved/acknowledged’ the request, not the resignation.

  2. OneAngryAvacado*

    GOD this was a saga. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you, OP!

    Out of curiosity, do you work in academia? Because this level of incompetent, petty, nit-picking bullshittery all felt very common to me as someone who works in the professional services of academia, but it’s terrifying to think it happens in other places too.

    (Also I really really hope your chair arrives soon.)

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      I’ve worked at seven units in four universities and only one unit of one university was remotely like that. (That place was a doozy.)

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        Accommodation always seemed easy and quick when I worked for Universities. Because they were so highly reliant on state and Federal funding, anything that might smell of violations toward ADA or EEO regulations was taken pretty seriously. Everything *else* might be a huge hassle, you might be working in an office that used to be a closet, on a WWII era desk, and using a ten year old computer, but you’d have your nice chair in there if you needed it.

        1. Anonymoose*

          I’m a professor at a state uni and my ADA rights are violated approximately once a month (allegedly)

          1. JennyEm56*

            Yep, our (big state uni) cares about ADA issues for students, but faculty/staff are up to individual units, which for many, means, completely ignored.

            1. AnonForThis*

              I work at a government department that provides disability services, and we spent years trying to get a door assist (one of those “push to open door” buttons) installed for one of our employees who needed it. It was outrageous.

              The tipping point finally came when that employee was trapped inside that room during an unscheduled fire drill.

          2. Nameless Wonder*

            I’m at a smaller college and our absolute inability to make buildings ADA accessible is mind-boggling, especially since the campus is only 30 years old.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’ve witnessed this level of sheer banana-wardrobing in a very non-academic setting.

    3. Tio*

      My jaw dropped when they started talking about chaining the chair to a desk. Come ON. We hotdesk here, but the people who have accommodations for specific desks just get assigned desks. No one steals their chair or desk. If they did, they’d be reprimanded. Why is this company so bound to make this harder than it has to be?

      1. Kyrielle*

        How bad do their default chairs have to be that they worry about someone stealing an ergonomic chair assigned for someone else’s use? Unless your employees are literal toddlers, label the thing and move on. And if your default chairs are *that* bad, replace the lot of them.

        1. avva*

          i was wondering if it was some kind of big institution with lots of people coming through, possibly including some who aren’t exactly trusted employees (students, lots of contractors, volunteers, that sort of thing). it would explain both the need for hotdesking and the concern that the chair would somehow grow legs and walk away.

          then again, they sound crazy. so in this specific case thats probably sufficient explanation on its own

        2. Kara*

          Actually, the environment as described makes me think that chair theft might very well be a major problem should that chair ever actually materialize. Look at the hoops LW has had to jump through just to get a chair promised, let alone actually show up! Look how long it’s taken, and that they wanted to close the ticket at one point! Bad backs aren’t that uncommon a problem. My bet is that LW isn’t the first person at this company to need one; she’s the first person to -get- this far. Which means that if this lone unicorn chair ever actually shows up, there’s going to be at least a few people who also legitimately need it and well, the LW isn’t using three days out of the week. ‘I also need an ergonomic chair and they’re not here; what could it hurt if i borrow it?’

          1. Kara*

            I should add that this problem would be 100% of the company’s making, but that doesn’t mean that it would be any less of a thing or a problem.

          2. Atalanta*

            I can totally believe this would happen. I had the only adjustable desk at my company and the number of people who just played with it was astounding. They actually seized the motor somehow and the vendor had to come out and repair it which prompted a strongly worded email from facilities.

          3. Kyrielle*

            POINT. Although then we’re back to “do better” but…yeah. :/

            Also, what works for LW may not be useful for others. At $PreviousJob, we had two of the chair that worked for me. One was unclaimed, and it kept getting claimed and then unclaimed because it was really terrible for most people…but oddly perfect for my size and shape.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        There are so many places where I can see this being a problem. At my work (old office), they’d take your chair even if it wasn’t much different than theirs. I had a newer chair, and I guess I went on vacation, came back, and someone had taken my chair and replaced it with an older chair.
        I had written my name in Sharpie on the little adjustment tab and on the back of the chair, but could never locate it even though I thought I checked most of the chairs on the same floor. It’s ridiculous. So I can see chaining the chair to the desk!
        But if the desk is assigned to one person, there should be no issues. And if the chair is distinctive enough, it would be hard to steal (I guess depending on the size of the business).

    4. higheredadmin*

      My thought as well – this is academia. Our institution changed their third-party company for this year because of the mess the third-party was making of disability claims and leaves. We are still dealing with the fallout from this. But seriously – any department will have a budget from which they could buy a sodding chair.

    5. halp please*

      I work at a university (not as a profess0r) and my boss sent me to an ergonomics office appointment as part of my onboarding. There was no wrangling, just a matter of fact recommendation from the ergonomics office about which chair would fit me (which was a matter of arithmetic – at that time, there was really one chair on the market in the US whose arms were adjustable to my measurements, not sure if this remains the case). My office took the recommendation and purchased the chair. No doctor’s note, no chains.

    6. LunaLena*

      I work in higher ed as well (staff not faculty) and when I started getting really bad carpal tunnel, my ThenBoss set up a time for the ergonomic assessors to check out my desk setup. Once they recommended I get a new chair, ThenBoss promptly took me to a store to pick out a new one, which we bought and set up that day, and got another one for the third member of our team. All this took less than a week.

      ThenBoss left a year later for greener pastures. I still miss ThenBoss.

      1. Lulu*

        I work in higher ed (faculty),and one of my employees keeps getting up from his chair, stretching his back, walking around, and groaning while talking about how hard it is to sit in his chair. I’ve repeatedly encouraged him to set up an ergonomics assessment so they can make some recommendations and I could buy him a new chair that works better for him. For an underfunded department, chairs are expensive enough it’ll help me justify it if I have a solid recommendation from our ergonomics person. He keeps saying “No, I don’t need that.” *facepalm* As I write this, I think I need to tell him I’d like to set up the ergonomics assessment for both him and a new hire – he can decline if he really wants to, but sheesh I feel like I need to make this opt out instead of opt in.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          That sounds like a good option. Just tell Fergus that the ergonomics person is coming out anyway for the new hire, so you’re going to book the person for him too. You don’t want him in pain, you want your team happy and healthy, it will take less than an hour, however you need to frame it.

          If it’s that he doesn’t want you/ergonomics assessor to go to the trouble–they’re already coming out! If he’s being a Guacamole Bob about costing the university money, tell him that preventing potential injury and lost work time is cost effective in the long run. You are investing in his well being!

          (You don’t have to say that his complaints about back pain are wearing on you; you don’t even have to imply it.)

    7. Rainy*

      I needed a new chair for similar reasons, and it took four months not because I needed a doctor’s note or anything, but just because ordering a blankety-blank piece of furniture takes forever at my institution. And yes, I work in academia.

      I also can’t sit in the chairs my institution buys for event spaces at all–I’m used to the back pain from the conference room chairs, but the event space chairs absolutely destroy my hips. Something about the combination of seat height and back angle, I think. An Ass(t) Vice-Chancellor once tried to chivvy me to sit in a chair at an all-division and when I politely declined for health reasons, she became visibly angry. (This is hilariously the same AVC who almost ran me over with her SUV.)

        1. Rainy*

          About the new chair? It’s actually great! It’s a Sayl, and it’s SO good. If you have arthritis in your hips, give that model a try–it’s been amazing for me.

          Or did you mean about being threatened by the same AVC who almost ran me down in a crosswalk…

          1. Rainy*

            It wasn’t that dramatic, just her being upset that there were empty chairs at the front while the arthritis crew stood or sat on the floor at the back.

            The time she almost ran me over, I was crossing the crosswalk to get to my building and she pretty much just charged down the street without looking. I kind of think she didn’t actually notice me until I slapped her car. Thank god she had to stop to turn left across traffic, because she definitely wasn’t stopping for me. She did apologize six weeks later or so.

    8. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I work as staff at a university and the first day they told me if my office setup didn’t work call this number and they had a variety of ergonomic options. Ergonomics is so standard now it doesn’t even rise to the level of accomodation

    9. The Prettiest Curse*

      I work in higher education and our uni has an ergonomics unit specifically for staff use. It took me a few weeks to get an ergonomic keyboard when I first started, but that was only because they were having difficulty finding a model that was Mac-compatible – luckily I had another keyboard I could use temporarily. We have a staff member starting soon who needs an ergonomic keyboard/mouse setup and our HR person will have everything ready for their first day. I’m sure it can vary a lot, but the system worked fine for me.

    10. Sopranohannah*

      I worked for a state government agency that was like this and not even about special chairs. Getting replacements for chairs that were irreparably broken was a nightmare. It probably didn’t help that our particular department was the red headed step child of the agency. Everything we needed got put on the back burner if someone else needed something more.

      1. Nupalie*

        Yes! I worked for state govt and we had to sign as personally responsible for our office ‘inventory’ (ie metal desk, 1970’s file cabinet and awful chair – each stamped with individual gov agency serial number). Every quarter we’d have to run up and down the hall looking for “our” chair out of 50 identical ones…moved around by cleaners or from being borrowed. Whenever someone retired there was much swapping for better furniture…til the next inventory.
        We would have had to sign for any accommodation furniture and it would have been taken out of our paycheck if it was lost or misappropriated

      2. AnonForThis*

        At the government department I work for, getting a fancy ergonomic keyboard took one email and a couple of days for delivery. (The replacement ergonomic keyboard when I spilled coffee on the first was just as easy.)

        I realize chairs are more expensive, but it’s nothing compared to a substantiated worker’s comp claim.

      3. Doc McCracken*

        LW, your experience is definitely banana pants! I’m a Chiropractor and have a patient that works for the VA. This particular patient needed a sit stand desk. It took a note from me explaining what they needed and me filling out a standard form that went into great detail to make sure they purchased the correct item. The VA even sent in an ergonomics expert and my patient still had a sit stand desk in less than 2 months.

  3. Amber Rose*

    … Now I feel guilty for this $400 chair I’m sitting in that was just given to me because I wanted a chair after my last one broke.

    LW your HR is bonkers if they thought anything about this was reasonable. It wasn’t.

    It better be a chair even fancier than mine when it shows up. I’m talking fabric made out of some extinct species or something.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Genuine thylacine hide stuffed with passenger pigeon down at the very least. With wooly mammoth-bone legs.

        1. Dances with Flax*

          And don’t forget the ivory-billed woodpecker feathers adorning the top of the headrest!

      1. I have RBF*

        IMO, $400 is the cheap seats. I’ve been pricing them for my home office setup, and the really good chairs retail at about $1900, plus tax and shipping. Yes, you can get a supposedly “ergonomic” gaming chair new for around $200, but it won’t last more than a year.

        1. Bri Laney*

          Yep. I was a PM in construction and facilities for a large hospital system. The standard office chair was around $900. You could easily spend $1600. Each chair was also made to order by a contracted vendor so, unfortunately, it often took weeks for end users to get their stuff. In rare instances, I could see it taking months. So happy to be out of there.

    2. Frickityfrack*

      Surprisingly, $400 for an office chair is pretty inexpensive. My office has Herman Miller Aerons and while I’m sure they were cheaper a decade ago and we got some kind of bulk deal, I’d bet we spent at least $1k each. Right now, they’re $1750, which seems insane to me, but they sell a ton of them. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns because they’re incredibly uncomfortable for anyone petite, but nobody asked me.

      I bought myself a $700 chair for home after getting sick of the cheaper ones hurting my back like crazy, and then my boss let me buy the same one for work. The world of office chairs is nuts, and I had no idea until I hit middle age.

      1. Lizzie*

        Do you work in my office? We moved to a new space a few years back, and our CFO apparently got a DEAL on these chairs. I hate mine too. It’s not at all comfortable and I go home the days I’m in the office, in pain. I have a much more inexpensive chair at home that is so much better.

        1. I have RBF*

          When my university employer in 2019 moved all non-student facing workers into an open plan they took away all of our ergonomic chairs, because the “standard” chair was “ergonomic” and “one size fits all”. It did not, in fact, fit me, and I was trying for a year to get a chair that fit me. But it was soooo #^$% important that the chairs “matched” to have a “uniform” office “look”. Stupid as hell, and very much “you are drones working in a drone factory, how dare you express any individuality”. They also demanded “clean desks” an “no excessive personalizations”. You were only supposed to have one picture frame and one drink container out of your desk, no more, and no books or papers could be left out. Ridiculous. Then came 2020, we all went home to work, and then they laid me off.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            I’m sorry — but no books on your desk *at a university*? Good heavens.

            1. londonedit*

              I can beat no books on your desk at a university – we had no papers or books on your desk *at a publishing company*. The company moved into a very shiny and modern new office space, and decided this was the opportunity to ‘go paperless’. Trouble was, this was before marking up corrections on PDFs had become commonplace – we were still working on hard-copy proofs and marking up corrections by hand. We each had space in a large bank of drawers behind our desks, which we had to put every single piece of paper into every evening, and even during the day we were only supposed to have whatever we were working on out and on our desks. There was also a ‘no food and drinks at desks’ rule – try enforcing that in a British office where people drink multiple cups of tea every day! Not to mention that it was stupid banning people from having water on their desks. Eventually that rule was diluted into ‘no hot food at your desk’, which was fine because there was a large kitchen with posh coffee machines and plenty of seating, and it was nice to get away from your desk at lunchtime, but it was all a bit silly.

          2. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

            I’m what tiktok calls a beverage goblin. I need a hot drink and a cold drink plus an emotional support beverage. They can be empty as long as they’re nearby.

        2. sb51*

          Flippin’ Aerons. We have them too, and evidently it’s gotten to be harder to pry a different chair request loose than it was when I got mine, from what I hear, because the ergonomic team thinks they’ve found the holy grail of chairs and if you don’t find it comfortable you’re sitting wrong.

          Mostly my irritation is that they won’t TAKE AWAY the Herman Miller torture device so it just takes up a good portion of my office being useless.

      2. mungojulia*

        As someone who is also vertically challenged, I was unimpressed when I changed work sites at a previous job to one that only had Aerons. I requested just bringing one of the chairs from the other site, and was told absolutely not because it wouldn’t match the aesthetic. I went to the effort of finding a special order shallow seat Aeron or the other chair in a matching colour and they still said no.

        Our excellent office manager helped me bring one over after hours, and no one ever commented on it ruining the aesthetic.

        1. I have RBF*

          Yeah, these offices where the aesthetic is more important than people’s comfort and avoiding injury just creep me out. It says, right there, that looking more uniform, like replaceable drones, is more important that keeping people safe and uninjured. Because of this I spent over a year in an uncomfortable chair in a shitty open plan made to be like a drone factory. I’m still salty about it.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I hear you. My office manager has been pushing me to get a new chair because “maybe mine isn’t quite ergonomic enough” so she’s definitely willing to shell out cash for it.

      But let’s not feel guilty, just grateful, and pass some of our good chair karma onto LW who very much deserves it.

    4. Commercial Interior Designer*

      Just wanted to note since most people don’t have a frame of reference for the cost of commercial office furniture. $400 for a commercial task chair is pretty reasonable. Office furniture is highly engineered, meets many testing requirements (fire ratings, weight capacities, etc.) and is just different than furniture you buy for you home. This comes up all the time, so I always try to clarify for folks.

      And over 5 months is ridiculous to get an accommodation approved!

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s true, I have no frame of reference at all. When we moved into this building, we bought all the chairs in it from the previous owners for $1. Prior to here, I just had this piece of junk but I also wasn’t sitting very much.

    5. KW*

      What OP went through is horrible, especially considering it was an accommodation request. I wonder if they work for my previous employer. At that job, my chair was loaned out to another employee while I was out of the office one day, and the person who it was loaned to broke it to s point where it was unusable. It took me over a year to get a new chair, and everyone acted like I was some spoiled little princess for expecting to get a replacement within a reasonable time. I literally had no chair for my desk, and I didn’t even have a standing desk either. I finally got a cheap replacement, and it was so uncomfortable I could barely sit in it.

    6. Julia K.*

      Too soon, after all the naugas were hunted to extinction to make naugahide upholstery.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Hah! When I was little, my brother (11 years older and thought he was Mr. Funny) had me convinced that naugas were real and Naugahide furniture was made out of their skins. After a few times getting Very Upset over Naugahide furniture in a few places, my mother explained to me that it was really just plastic and Brother was just teasing me again. She also told him to quit winding me up like that. He hasn’t :D

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Lol – the only hiccup with an ergonomics request my office ever had was to do with a chair ironically. There’s a very straightforward process at my office, fill out this form, if you have supporting documentation or a specific item you used well at another job attach said paperwork, and then employee health gets back to you with in 72 hours with the answer or questions.
      The process started normally enough – form with documentation from the Dr and a chosen chair was submitted- but 48 hours later it all began hitting the fan. Turns out the employee had requested an almost $3200 chair – and employee health was requesting to be put into contact with the Dr to see if there was a more price friendly compromise to be found, as they could only budget $1500 for an ergonomic chair. 99% of the office thought this was fair – they weren’t being told No, just asking if they could find a middle ground. Employee quit in a rage huff after spending a month literally screaming over the phone at employee health (and possibly their own Dr). And yes, we all got to hear the screaming matches in the cubicle farm we worked in.

      And yes, that’s the only accommodation request that hasn’t sailed right thru with no problems. We even have a process for you to pick your own device and be reimbursed up to a certain amount based on what type of item the request is with regards to.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Realized this may make a difference – the great chair debacle was a little over a decade ago – back then you could get really nice ergonomic chairs for about $1500.

      1. Banana Crackers*

        For real? I worked at a place where we had old broken chairs but as long as the wheels worked it was considered fine. When we moved locations we decided to junk the old chairs and get new ones. The finance manager, a known cheapass, got us all chairs and expected us to kiss her feet. They were the cheap chairs from Walmart or something that were less than $100 apiece. They were horrible!

    1. Darkwing Duck*

      Normal Gossip Fans UNITE!

      (OMG Alison as the guest during an office goss episode. NEED)

    2. JustKnope*

      Yesssss please. The chaining to the desk detail in particular I can already hear Kelsey giggling over!

  4. Juicebox Hero*

    Sometimes, all you can say is “Holy shitballs!” This is one of those times.

    1. Random Dice*

      The part where they seriously discussed kicking an executive out of their office was breathtaking.

      And the one where they said OP would juuuuust have to come in every day.

      Just… I mean.

  5. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    The level of incompetence on display here is nothing short of stunning. How much does your company pay this third party provider for their “services”? If it’s more than $0, it’s way too much.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I suspect that the services the third party provides is turning down requests that would cost the employer money, while providing a fig leaf of deniability.

      1. Anon for this one*

        This. Dealing with the third party benefits provider to get my short term disability approved was the worst part of my cancer treatment (and I had the trifecta – chemo, surgery, radiation).

  6. soontoberetired*

    My work doesn’t process requests like this quickly either – they want you to go thru hoops before the accomodate you – we don’t get it. Our managers don’t get it. It is just a fricking chair.

    1. JustaTech*

      Many years ago, during one of our periodic belt-tightenings my office suddenly went from “of course you can have an ergonomic assessment!” to “here’s a link to an online ergonomic self-assessment, no you can’t have a new chair”.
      I’ll grant that our chairs are very nice (Herman Miller, not Aerons but close) and mine has held up amazingly for 12 years (!), but for people who are very short or very tall they just don’t fit. (Heck, one of the people asking for an assessment just wanted a taller footrest and ended up using a upside-down trash can.)

      For a while even they didn’t want to do *any* kind of ergo assessment based on “you just want an expensive chair!” when people were asking about things like keyboards and mice. (Ergonomic lab equipment? Perish the thought!)

  7. Dust Bunny*

    This is bonkers and I also now feel like sending flowers to our HR person for being so reasonable and competent.

    1. SarahKay*

      I know!
      I moved sites, although within the company. At my old site I had a somewhat-battered-looking but very adjustable chair that suited my back perfectly, covered in red fabric. My new site recently got refurbished and has all matching chairs covered in black fabric.
      I asked my old site leader if I could take the chair with me, and offered to buy a replacement if needed. “Don’t be absurd”, he said “just take your chair, of course you don’t need to worry about replacing it”.
      At my new site I checked with the HSE/Facilities manager if I could bring the chair despite it not matching (and being old and battered). “Yes, of course you can, especially if that’s what you need ergonomically.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The dreaded cosmetic “improvement” chair… when they renovated our building, we got new chairs, and I had quite the argument before I got to keep my ergonomic chair in the wrong color. It’s not quite high enough for the unadjustable cubicle desks but it’s higher than the pretty chairs!

        1. SarahKay*

          Most people do seem to find the black ones comfortable, but I have intermittent back issues and my red chair is by far the best one I’ve ever sat in, so I was willing to be a squeaky wheel (no pun intended) if it meant I could keep the red one.
          But, as I say, no squeaking needed because I work with reasonable people. A fact which this site brings home to me on a regular basis, and for which I am very grateful.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I tell my reasonable and competent HR all the time how how much I love them. It really does make a difference, having lived under multiple HR regimes of varying quality.

    3. Ace in the Hole*

      We don’t have an HR person right now. I think the empty desk they used to sit at is still more reasonable and competent than the person LW had to deal with.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You should send them this letter and thank them for being so reasonable and competent. Seriously. They’ll love it.

  8. Brain the Brian*

    In the pre-pandemic world, our HR department announced that we could all get standing desks if we wanted them. Most people got theirs within a couple weeks, but the one coworker who bothered with formal medical documentation — the person with the most severe back problems that the standing desk would solve, who therefore wanted solid documentation so that no one could take it away from her — took four months to get hers. Two weeks after it finally arrived, BAM, pandemic. What a world…

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      Do you think maybe it took so long for that co-worker because she did go through the proper channels? “The more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

      I’m reminded of a former coworker, Rachel, who was in the U.S. on a working visa, and struggling to get her green card. One day, she unloaded on me and another co-worker, Ross, about all the hoops she had to jump through. Right then, she was waiting for X bureau to send her Q paperwork…but if it didn’t arrive by a certain date, she would miss the deadline for Z procedure, and have to wait until the next cycle.

      “Phoebe says it wasn’t like this for her. Monica says the same. And how do terrorists get their passports so easily?”

      “Ooh. Well, see, Phoebe is Narnian, and Monica is Calormenian, and there are a lot of people here from those countries. Monica had family already here, and Phoebe probably also knew, or met, other Narnians. Unfortunately for you, you’re from Archenland, and there is no network of Archenlanders. So you had no one to tell you, like the others most likely had, ‘Okay, contact X bureau right away; you’re gonna need the Q paperwork. Don’t wait, ’cause it might be too late by the time they say you need it.’ And terrorists don’t go through the proper channels at all.”

      TL;DR: it’s easier to game, or at least bypass, the system, than to play by their rules. (Rachel did get her green card, finally!)

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Oh, it absolutely took longer because she went through the proper channels. The proper channels here are known for moving at the speed of a molasses spill in January.

      2. Stuff*

        I’m going to be honest. The use of the word “terrorist” here really makes me uncomfortable. It doesn’t even make sense. Why would somebody plotting an attack go through the notoriously difficult US green card process, let alone get a US passport? I’m not aware of anyone ever doing that specifically to enable an attack at a later date. You’d just use a passport from your own country, which wouldn’t be particularly difficult to do. “How do terrorists get their passports so easily” seems to be directly related to the constant Right Wing panic about “hordes of terrorists crossing the US-Mexico border among illegal immigrants”, something which hasn’t at all been substantiated as an actual thing that’s happening.

        1. Francie Foxglove*

          Eh, it’s what she said. When someone’s as frustrated as Rachel was, it can seem like everyone’s getting a break except you, whether they are or not.

  9. Don't kneel in front of me*

    Why is HR outsourcing accomodation requests to a third party? How is that in any way efficient?

    1. Jiminy cricket*

      That was my first question! Is that common? I simply cannot imagine that it is efficient or effective. (And now we’ve got anecdotal proof that it’s not.)

      1. Anna*

        I would assume it’s common, because I can think of at least three outsource accommodation/leave administrator companies just from partnerships my employers have had. (MetLife, Unum, and Lincoln Financial Group, in case you’re curious)

        But this 5 months for a chair is banana pants! All three of the companies we’ve worked with have been quite easy – what accommodation do you want, great get a doctor to agree, okay you’re set- or a reasonable delivery time based on normal shipping and handling for something like a new chair that isn’t already on site.

        It helps a lot for my current employer to outsource this, since we’re partially remote and also employees across the globe. Having a company that does leave and accommodation administration for us US-based employees means the administrator can keep track of state and federal laws for us.

    2. chocolate lover*

      I was uncomfortable enough giving medical information to my own HR dept, but to give it to a third party? That’s even worse.

      I wonder if the company’s goal is to make employees so uncomfortable about sharing their personal medical information, that they won’t bother requesting accommodations at all?

      1. Miss Muffet*

        I think for a lot of people, giving the info to a 3rd party is better because they don’t work with you so you don’t have people you see around knowing your private medical business. Leaves of Absence are commonly managed with 3rd parties and I think that’s great bc your boss only gets “this is an approved medical leave” or whatever and no details unless you yourself choose to share them. Keeps a bit of a firewall anyway.

      2. Dances with Flax*

        I was wondering about that, too, chocolate lover! Was the actual agenda to make the process of getting a simple chair so drawn-out and difficult that the OP (and anyone else in need of accommodations) would be discouraged, let the matter drop or not bring it up in the first place and thus relieve the company of having to spend money to fulfill their ADA requirements?

        1. WellRed*

          No need to assume malice where sheer incompetence is more likely. At any rate, the amount of work hours wasted on this negates the cost savings of a chair.

          1. Middle of HR*

            plus these third party services cost a lot of money! I don’t know if this particular one bills by the hour or “complexity” or something, but if a vendor was pulling this on one of my employees it would be end of contract. So furious for the letter writer.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Supposedly the third party are the experts and outsourcing would relieve HR of this highly specialized work. Also, in case of denial of benefit (very frequent) the employer gets to paint the “administrator” as the bad guy. The benefits may be ergonomic or financial, like tuition or travel reimbursement.
      Except HR now has additional work managing these third-party vendors and arbitrating issues like the one LW described. So no, not efficient.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        They may get to paint them as the bad guy but the employer is the one getting sued for the ADA violations.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Is there a third party? Why cannot you not know the company to whom your private medical information is sent? The person with the beeping in the background didn’t identify the company?
      We have an external company for FMLA requests. When I called, “Hello, this is Bob Vance. Vance FMLA Services.”
      and when they called me to follow up, and they did follow up with me, “Hello, it’s Bob Vance. Bob Vance FMLA Services.”
      This makes no sense to me.

    5. Statler von Waldorf*

      While this entire story is bonkers, this is the part that made my eyebrows shoot way, way up. In my jurisdiction, this would violate multiple privacy laws unless the employee in question signed a release allowing us to share that information.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        We have a third party processer, and very strict privacy laws as well. The employee works directly with the processer – technically the manager and HR aren’t involved at all. So there’s no need to sign a release, as the employee is providing their own info (with informed consent, etc.)

    6. Cobol*

      My guess is insurance. If it’s an accommodation they get some money back. Since the point of insurance in the US is to deny claims, it leads to debacle.

      Now the idea that they were considering kicking grandboss out of their office means HR has fully embraced living in a debacle, but to answer your question of why, because it’s not about efficiency, but reducing cost.

    7. Marley's Ghost*

      When I requested an ergonomic chair, my request went through a couple of third parties. There was the insurance with the ergonomic expert to approve it, and then there was the company that actually built the chair for me. Since it was much more involved than “pick a chair, order it,” going through a third party made a lot of sense!

      But I communicated directly with both of them. It would’ve been impossible otherwise! LW’s company is bananas.

    8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Employee Health handles all that stuff for us at my job – and to make them as close to impersonal as possible they are actually in a completely different location – three miles from the closest physical company location.

      They are more of a: shot records (we are a health system), accommodation requests, any sort of special leave classes (like parental leave, FMLA) department; they aren’t an I slipped and need an ice pack and some bandages employee health dept.

  10. Francie Foxglove*

    Can you still walk at this rate? I was cringing for you at every setback. Hope the chair arrives soon!

    Also wonder what’s going on with the background noise when the third party calls.

    1. Micah*

      I was wondering that too but later in the letter it says that OP is working from home until the chair arrives. Luckily! Though unfortunately that is maybe upsetting the manager…

      1. Aggretsuko*

        It would literally be cheaper to let OP work from home than OMG THE EXPENSE OF THE OFFICE CHAIR, but noooooooooooo.

        1. Enai*

          Listen, Aggretsuko (great name, btw!) your suggestion is reasonable, and clearly, LW’s company is incorporated in a realm of unreason and caprice. Indefinite work from home can’t solve this problem. Requesting a chair made from unicorn scales and poisoned candy floss might, though.

  11. I should really pick a name*

    I was really glad when I got to the part where the LW said they’d keep working from home because they were in pain.

    A lot of people wouldn’t be assertive enough to do this.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, I’m really glad that the OP was able to do that. Back problems are NOT easy.

  12. Allornone*

    I feel guilty because a week after I casually asked if I could purchase a standing desk attachment for my traditional desk, my office straight up found and gave me one. No HR, no fuss, no formal request even. Just “oh here’s a standing desk”

    1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      This was me. I asked my supervisor and two days after I asked, one showed up in my office for me to put up.

  13. It's me.*

    This is completely not helpful, but I feel like this is exactly how things would go at my workplace except I would have bypassed the whole process by buying the chair myself, submitting my expense reimbursement, and having my completely reasonable, normal manager approve it. Finance doesn’t care so they would have processed the reimbursement in a day and HR would have no idea. In fact, I’d probably be sitting in the chair for 6+ months without them even realizing my request was never processed. No one talks to each other in my organization, so everything is weirdly complicated and easy at the same time.

    1. CityMouse*

      This is sort of what I did except as a (temp) manager. I just ordered the guy his chair. No one ever said anything to me, so I guess it all worked out.

    2. Nea*

      I bought my own chair too. Didn’t bother expensing it, just bought the thing for myself and tell them that I bring my own accommodations.

      1. Kacihall*

        I had the best of the unclaimed (broken) chairs in my office when I started. after a year it was driving me crazy because it was too low for our uncomfortably high desks and the hydraulics didn’t work for more than ten minutes at a time. I asked repeatedly for a new chair and was told there were extras. Then Covid hit, and I realized how much more comfortable I was working from home NOT sitting in the stupid chair. even when I spent eight hours on my couch (not at all comfortable!)
        so when they made us come back to the office (in JULY 2020) I bought my own chair. two months ago the owners caved and bought everyone who needed one a new chair. (I like mine, so they can deal with having to buy a new chair when I leave.)

  14. chellie*

    Do you work for the state? My right handed spouse’s right arm is in a sling for at least 3 months due to a surgery. Because it’s the state, no one has any control over their IT. He asked for the speech to text functions to be turned on to his devices. So, this is a no cost accommodation. IT wanted to know where his ADA paperwork was. Apparently ADA paperwork comes from HR, who are similarly rigid and inept. It will take WEEKS, disclosure of relevant medical records (to an office known for their busybody interference) and at least 1 $40 office visit to obtain and process this request (for an accommodation that comes standard with the software). Happily the actual office he works in is fairly reasonable, so he can WAH as needed, and undemanding, so the lessened productivity of one handed work with the non dominant hand isn’t an issue.

    1. just a random teacher*

      That’s so ridiculous. The one specifically called-out exception to the usual “we need documentation months in advance and evidence that the kid regularly uses this accommodation in their classroom” that we get for the Overly Strict State Testing rules is “if a kid has a temporarily injured arm/hand, they can use a scribe or text to speech instead of typing without having to go through the regular disability accommodations process”. That’s literally the only thing that’s just so obviously “this is a new, temporary issue with an obvious solution to apply immediately” that even the people with so little chill that they require me to verbatim-read the (poorly written) script about putting away your cell phones rather than improvising one specific to where they should put them in my actual classroom can see why that’s a low-friction accommodate-immediately-no-one-is-doing-this-for-funsies thing.

      1. wanda*

        Your school district is more reasonable than my university. When I asked my office of student disabilities whether there was any way someone who had just injured their hand could get a scribe or accommodations for extended testing time, they said no. I wish I hadn’t asked and just supervised an extended-time makeup for them myself.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Bananas! Why on earth does IT care about ADA paperwork to enable a free software?! Who cares if a person just likes using text to speech?

  15. Prospect Gone Bad*

    What is the 3rd party you’re referring to? I don’t see a case where this would go to a true third party? Is it to a Workday or an ADP type of company (which then wouldn’t really a third party)? Either way, HR messed up by forgetting to submit the ticket, but I am very curious what type of company the 3rd party is

    1. Myrin*

      I was wondering that as well. Is there something specific about office equipment/furniture or what part of OP’s request is it which prompted that bizarre third-party-involvement?

    2. Rosyglasses*

      There are a ton of third party vendors that manage things like COBRA, ADA and FMLA accommodations etc. The argument generally is that they have experts and smaller companies with limited HR resources can outsource.

    3. CL*

      My company uses a third party for FMLA and ADA requests. Unfortunately, because they are based on the idea that all requests are either leave or equipment, they take forever running in circles with accommodations like permanent work from home and assigned desks rather than hot desking.

  16. Panhandlerann*

    I can actually top this story: at my university, the program assistant of my academic department needed a sit-stand desk for medical reasons (bad back). It took months and months for her to get one. Five months would have seemed a short time in comparison.

    1. whingedrinking*

      A friend of mine worked for an arts organization and when the pandemic hit, she didn’t have an office chair. She begged her higher-ups to let her take one home from the office and they refused for weeks. She finally pointed out that part of her actual job was educating people about proper WFH practices, including ergonomics, and it was seriously undermining her credibility that people could see her on camera sitting in a kitchen chair.

  17. Mephyle*

    Was it impossible, unthinkable, to go for a different accommodation; namely, exempting OP from the requirement to return to the office for those two days a week?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Well, that’s what they’re ultimately doing, and would have to keep doing if the request was denied. It doesn’t seem like that’s a long term solution from management’s POV, which could be for any number of reasons.

    2. Observer*

      If you are talking about REASONABLE people, I would think the answer should be obvious.

      The problem is that you are talking about people who are clearly *extremely* NOT reasonable. And who actually seriously considered forcing the OP to come in *every day* instead of twice a week to be a reasonable way to handle the situation. Given that, why would anyone expect them to explore this obvious potential solution.

      tldr; You can’t expect reasonable suggestions from people who are professionally unreasonable.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Yep. I posted about this below – one of my employees is having a hard time being in the office, so you would think the obvious solution would be to have him come in less often. Turns out it is both impossible and unthinkable!

  18. Fluffy Fish*

    OP – I’m petite. I found out they make petite office chairs. Not any kind of formal need or even a super ergonomic difference, but would be more comfortable for me than a standard office chair.

    The time from request, to approval, to me sitting in the chair was a month. And this is government.

    Your employer was being ridiculous and I’d watch closely for other signs of dysfunction.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      I order office furniture as part of my job. Right now, getting a chair within a month would be pretty fast – we’re seeing 12-16 week lead times on a lot of items.
      That said, it shouldn’t take FIVE months just to get the approval for a chair. And a chair is a hell of a lot cheaper than a workman’s comp claim.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      Ok, you MUST share your source for petite office chairs! A couple of us spent months looking for ones that are short enough for us with no luck. (Though we’re petite in the sense of short but we’re all at least a bit overweight) I’ve been pulling all the ancient “secretary-style” chairs from the discard piles and hoarding them because they are the only thing that seems to be comfortable for those of us with <29" inseams but they're pretty rickety at this point and break often enough we're going to run out at some point.

      1. Office hobbit*

        It’s not cheap, but my work bought me the RFM 8235, which is configurable to have a shorter cylinder so that the seat can be lowered much closer to the floor. At its lowest setting the top of my seat is about 17″ off the floor. Hope that helps (and isn’t too off topic for the post)!

        1. Prefer my pets*

          Thanks! Sadly, that still won’t cut it for us…we’re looking for 15″ (a couple of us are REALLY short lol Thankfully the desk/counter style of our cubes is super adjustable at least and can be done in 1″ increments the entire cube wall and our facility guy usually shows up about 10 min after we ask to adjust them to do it. We leave him snacks a lot!).

      2. Marley's Ghost*

        My company used BodyBilt to create my chair–they were able to make me a chair that both goes low enough and has arm rests far enough in for me. (Unfortunately, it seems that the arm rest options–I accidentally got a pair of each of two different styles–either go low enough or far enough in, so I still tend to not use the arm rests.)

        1. Carlie*

          My problem is that if I get a chair that is short enough for my legs, I’m then typing up by my chin or so on the tall people sized desk (only a slight exaggeration). I have found that a giant half-cylinder foot cushion is a nice add-on to adapt to a big desk/big chair situation. I’ve had this for 12 years and it is still in good shape, if squished a bit shorter than when it was new. (amazon link)

      3. Fluffy Fish*

        It’s been a few years but it was just through Amazon. We have an amazon business account.

        I’m in the office tomorrow and will check what kind it is and post back here. Nothing fancy but I love it. My knees hit the seat at the right spot, the armrests too which are also fully able to push up out of the way. I’m 5’1″ for reference.

        Also if you search office chair for short people you should get a ton of review articles that have various options.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          CORRECTION – Im in the office FRIDAY and will update.

          I dont know what day it is :)

      4. i like hound dogs*

        I’m 5’2 with spine issues and the best set-up I’ve found so far is a Steelcase Aria chair + sit/stand desk (plus taking lots of breaks and doing yoga twice a week, lol). I work hybrid and I’m super lucky to have this set-up at home and in the office. It doesn’t keep me totally pain-free but I feel way better than I did before.

  19. theletter*

    HR’s asking if the ticket can be closed without resolution after forgetting to submit the doctor’s note? And then they let the office team bat around dumb concerns about thief and lie to you about trying to reach out? Methinks something is rotten in Denmark.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I’m surprised they asked to close the ticket and didn’t just close it.

  20. CityMouse*

    I admit that this may have gotten me into trouble elsewhere but when I had an employee who needed a special chair as an acting manager I just told facilities to order it and did the whole “ask forgiveness, not permission”. The guy had serious life saving surgery and it was already ridiculous they were making him come in (this was pre COVID). I may have also never checked if he was physically in the office and winked at that requirement a bit because his work was getting done. But I was acting and planning on going back to my other job and was tired of run arounds. There’s a reason I’ve never accepted a management position again.

    1. Americans w disabilities inaction*

      Some years ago I had a student with a mobility issue related to a serious disability. He could get from class to class, but because his gait was odd and his balance poor, he needed additional time so that he could avoid the between-class crowds.

      I taught a linked course and the link was immediately after my class. In another building. The accessible path between the two buildings went through a narrow, crowded passageway. The other building was notoriously unfriendly to everyone’s ability to get around but especially for folks with disabilities. So my student would not be able to safely get from my class to the next.

      I call up facilities and ask if the room in notorious building is open during my class time (our classrooms are booked solid). It is. Could I reserve it, officially preferably or unofficially if need be. They block it off for me. Semester starts, all is well.

      Halfway through the semester I get a nasty gram from disability services. Seems my student’s mom praised our solution. Disability services said, the student didn’t request it, so you aren’t allowed to do it. “We are a compliance office, not a solutions office” (literally what the director said to me).

      My boss said, please apologize and say you will never do it again; and thank you for doing it.

      (That director is long gone and our disability services is now fantastic re advocacy, education, and yes, compliance)

      1. Bread Crimes*

        …well that’s just wretched of that previous director. I’ve dealt with an exciting variety of accommodations for various student needs (and greatly value the experience this has given me!), and the disability resource center at my institution, while clearly overwhelmed and thus rather slow at times, has always been excellent about this sort of thing. At least once I ended up in a different (and far better, ha!) classroom at the last minute because of exactly something like your situation: except in mine, a student in another class needed a closer classroom, and so the DRC went looking for a suitable classroom (my assigned one) and asked if I’d be willing to swap (to the much nicer one, so, yes, thanks, definitely!). They got that done before the semester started; but I’ve seen similar changes happen in the first few weeks of classes when the request took a little longer to get through the system, or was started later. Or when the difficulty just wasn’t discovered until the commute was practiced live with active crowds.

      2. Kella*

        That is THE MOST banana pants reaction to accommodating a disability I’ve ever heard. The entire point of formal disability accommodations is in order to ask for support, workarounds, or solutions *that you would not otherwise be able to get on your own* or that would cause significant hardship to you to get. If I drop my pencil on the ground and cannot bend over to pick it up because of a disability, it’s not a disability accommodation for someone to reach down and grab it for me. Because helping someone out with something is just a thing they chose to do. If a solution is forthcoming without a lot of extra effort, then a formal accommodation just isn’t needed.

  21. Warrior Princess Xena*

    One of the truly solid things my firm has done is that a) workstations are stand/sit desks by default and b) the default office chairs are all Steelcase Ergonomic things that have 4-5 different degrees of flexibility and customization. And since we hotel (this is not a post-covid thing, hotel desks are common in my industry), they outfitted ALL the workstations like that. I cannot comprehend the ridiculousness of the process OP has described. A good chair is pricey but not THAT pricey and could not have cost a fraction of the time that was wasted.

  22. Ama*

    I am currently frustrated with our HR over an employee accommodation for my report as well, although at least in my case we are actually trying to push through a brand new policy and HR is just being extremely slow reviewing and approving — I can’t imagine how frustrated I would be if all we were trying to do was get my report a *chair.*

    And for OP, as the manager in this situation, I am frustrated and sometimes I probably let my frustration show a bit when my report checks in again about whether we’ve heard anything, but I am absolutely not frustrated with my *report* — I’m frustrated that no one but me at the management level seems to be upset at how long this is taking (my boss and I were told we should set aside everything to get the draft policy put together in a week and now HR has been sitting on it for 10 weeks), and I’m frustrated that I’m not allowed to give my report any temporary flexibility until this new policy comes through, and I’m frustrated that I had to draft a new policy at all (in my opinion the policy we crafted should have been the standard from the beginning). But I am *not* blaming my report for any of this.

  23. Still Nameless in MN*

    Sadly I’ve found many companies have long, unnecessarily complicated process for such accommodations.

    My coworker went through 9 months of increasingly craziness in order to get her chair. Including being told she’d “need to take her chair home with her every night so no one could take it.” What? She refused to do so.

    About a month after finally getting her chair (10 months from first ask), our manager let slip that she had found out the company was purposely making it difficult hoping coworker would give up because the company thought if they allowed it for one employee then “every employee would want one.” Our manager was furious but ultimately had no authority over the process.

    I found out from many in my network that this practice is not uncommon.

    Furthermore, many companies have policies against employees bringing in their own chairs, desks, etc. because the insurance companies say it’s a liability if employees do so and something happens. (Like employees chair is not put together properly and employee takes a tumble and gets hurt).

    I have a, quite costly, seat cushion for my chair. I lock it in my desk drawer anytime I’ll be away from my desk for more than 30 minutes, I also sewed an identification tag in it somewhere most people would never notice.

    In many offices there are a group of employees who seem to think if it’s not nailed down it’s “community” property,

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      She was supposed to take the chair home with her each night?? I’m baffled someone was able to make that suggestion with a straight face. Maybe twirling their mustache made it possible.

      To the person who told the manager that they were purposely being awful in the hopes that she dropped the whole thing, good job saying the quiet part loud. Perhaps another mustache-twiddling side-effect?

      Out of curiosity, was the whole company awful, or was this just a really awful blindspot? It feels like this must be indicative of further bees buzzing around, but I know that HR can be so siloed it’s not necessarily representative of everything.

      1. Wilbur*

        Office chairs can be really heavy, I think the steelcase ones my company uses are about 50 lbs. Heavy and awkward enough that loading one in and out of a car everyday will definitely cause issues.

    2. JTM*

      My first thought was that HR & the 3rd party company were purposely being inept & slow-walking the request hoping that OP would just give up.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        That was my first thought as well but having worked in a company with a setup that seems similar to this (company “HR” was really just a help desk and did basic paperwork, anything that could be called “proper HR” such as employee issues, accommodations etc was outsourced) – I can easily imagine that it is just “red tape”, frustratingly.

        I think someone in the company has noticed though, because HR randomly followed up (after having forgotten about it) about whether the ‘ticket’ could be closed. This tells me that someone has got on their case about too many ‘tickets’ that have been open for too long.

        I am putting ‘ticket’ in scare quotes as HR issues shouldn’t be managed in a similar way to forgotten login passwords etc, and yet here they are.

    3. lilsheba*

      Take her chair HOME every day and bring it back? What in the hell kind of nonsense is THAT? No one does that. As for the “if we do it for one then we have to do it for all so we don’t want to do it” is illegal, they can’t decide that. They can easily accommodate one without everyone getting the same thing.

    4. Anonymous Tech Writer*

      Your example of “employees chair not put together right” made me laugh because when my department got new chairs they were delivered unassembled. I’m handy so I started to do it myself. Quickly realized there was something wrong, and told our manager. Facilities was called in, and they assembled everyone’s chair–but did NOT address the issue with my chair so they had me sliding forward at a 30° angle. At least 3 people tried to explain why it was fine …until I made them sit in it.

      I got my old chair back from storage; busted chair went back to vendor.

      1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        I put together any of our office chairs. When we have had volunteer Team Members do it, it has not gone well. At least have someone who knows how to use an Allen Wrench do it!

      2. whingedrinking*

        I found someone offering a basically new computer chair on a swap group one time, saying they couldn’t get comfortable in it, so for the cost of some beer and the gas to pick it up, it was mine. I got it home and found I had the same problem.
        They’d put the seat on backwards.
        I offered it back to them – even after I fixed the seat it didn’t really work for me either – but they said they’d already bought a new chair. However, it turned out that it was a good thing to have for my partner’s friend to sit in at our dining room table during game night, so all’s well in the end.

  24. Meep*

    Yikes. They are really lucky that you didn’t find another job that allows you to go remote, because you probably could’ve found a new remote job faster than this.

  25. Rose*

    The blame here is squarely on HR/the third party/a bit on OPs boss, but if you are going through something like this, please for the love of all that is holy do not wait politely for two weeks to hear back every time a request is ignored.

    I recently went through something similar, and after what I considered an egregious period of time to ignore a request that they were legally obligated meet (for me that was one month of politely timed emails) I started emailing HR every single day with my boss CCed. I obviously kept it very polite but every day essentially said “I need this resolved immediately. What is being done to resolve it today?” I made sure my boss was crystal clear on how this was affecting my work, and how much time I was wasting trying to get it fixed.

    I suspect this all would’ve been resolved much sooner if OP had started emailing daily or every other day a month into the insanity. A biweekly check in is not enough for something that is significantly impacting your life! They never should’ve had to do this, but if you are going through something similar I recommend advocating for yourself! Forget notions of office appropriate email turn around times; those go out the window when someone is so flagrantly failing to get you what you need to do your job.

  26. Jade*

    It was a ridiculous amount of incompetence but once the chair comes there’s really no reason to bring it up again. It sounds like a one time thing. I’d give my manager a break from it.

  27. Jamie Starr*

    At ex-job one of my reports asked for an under the desk foot treadmill type of thing, to help with plantar fasciitis. They sent me some examples of what would work and we could “buy” one of the options by using our company’s credit card reward points. So basically, it was free. The director of the company was so ridiculous about it, asking me did this person really need it, making me look up all the laws regarding accommodation, etc. The amount of time I spent justifying something that would absolutely not cause “undue hardship” for the organization, and was so easy to do for my report, was so frustrating.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Not to say he was right exactly, but the device wasn’t “free” just because it was paid for with points, as presumably those points could have been used to pay for something else. I think it is reasonable to check whether it is genuinely needed rather than “it’s free so let’s have it”.

      1. Chutney Jitney*

        It’s not ever reasonable to assume your employee seeking accommodation is lying. They need it. The way you know they need it is they asked for it.

        Bonus to the company, it won’t cost anything from the budget<-as you likely know, this is what was meant by "free".

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Yes, but there is still “opportunity cost” for want of a better phrase. Even if not originally budgeted, the points are a company resource that can potentially be spent on something else.

          1. Jamie Starr*

            I was actually the person who was in charge of how company reward points were used. And they were used for things like getting people larger/second monitors, desk chairs, speakers. So this request was completely and exactly within the realm of what points would have been used for. And as Chutney Jitney pointed out, there was no budget impact so it was free in that sense. But thanks for nitpicking; it reminds me of what the director would have done.

  28. Random tuesday*

    it says something that I read that and thought ..yep, sounds right. I had a similar thing happen at my office (minus doctors notes and third party vendors). the office was renovated and the person in charge of renovations threw out all our chairs and bought all the peons the same non-ergonomic chair. I lobbied for an ergonomic chair – I had one before the renos. in the end I didn’t get one, but I got a sit-stand desk attachment that was the price of a chair. then a bunch of people did.

  29. NeedRain47*

    Oh, haha, it’s not reasonable but it’s “normal” in my experience. A lot of places are willing to spend zero dollars on accommodations until forced. Sometimes this is genuinely due to budget concerns but sometimes it’s just… not being accomodating.

    1. Migrandeur*

      I’m currently going through this for schedule flexibility my coworkers already enjoy. Which is likely illegal. Also completely free to grant with zero impact on business operations.

      I’ve already quoted the EEOC to my HR department once. We’ll see if any of it sticks.

      1. Migrandeur*

        Correction: it would have a positive impact on business operations. Because I would be able to work when I’m actually functioning and productiev.

  30. Meghan*

    Honestly, after the run around they gave you, I’d threaten to get my lawyer involved.

    1. smilingswan*

      Exactly. Are there not any laws governing how long an ADA accomodation is allowed to take to be put into effect?

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I wouldn’t. After the the libel against me (and my doctor), I’d have my lawyer threaten to get my lawyer involved. (And remind them that retaliation is at least as illegal as failure to provide the accommodation.)

      While sending out resumes.

  31. BellyButton*

    “forcing me to come into the office for five days instead of two to ensure I am sitting in the chair every day and no one takes it”

    JFC!!!!! hahahaha I can’t with these people. If I didn’t laugh I would cry and the complete lack of common sense with all the people LW had to deal with. What an absolute sh*tshow.

    As a manager, if I knew my employee was dealing with this I would have stepped in and escalated this to higher ups, there is no reason LW should have needed to do this all on her own with zero support from her leader.

  32. Jade*

    It’s not your fault at all but what chair did you sit on before you started working from home?

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if OP took the job either after the start of the pandemic or because the job was advertised as fully remote but now the higher-ups have decided they want butts in seats.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Or if the previous chairs were all disposed as part of the move to an open office.

    2. Middle of HR*

      Doesn’t matter.
      If they changed jobs, office changed locations, or changed chairs, or they had a new symptom emerge, any of those things could have led to the office chairs being an unexpected issue. There are so many factors, and none of them excuse that HR was incompetent and the manager needs to aim their annoyance squarely at them.

    3. Generic Name*

      If OP is anything like me, they gritted their teeth through hours of pain/got physical therapy/took OTC pain meds/took prescribed pain meds/went home in near tears for years until they realized a chair that fit them avoided all of those problems.

  33. BellyButton*

    At my last job, when my chair broke I contacted facilities to let them know and ask for a new one. I had a good relationship with all the facilities staff so one came and got me and took me to an attached warehouse. He explained to me because I was a SR. Manager I could pick from this lot of chairs. I could not however pick from this lot, or that lot, and definitely not that lot- those chairs are reserved for VP+

    I found it absolutely hilarious that people get so petty with chairs that they have to make these big distinctions.

  34. Chrisssss*

    This needs to be under the “wait, what?!” category. This reminds me a bit on the corporate my employer works for, where they also have a ridiculous level of bureaucracy that stops people to work for them partially for months!

  35. Garblesnark*

    I have never seen these third party accomodation services accomplish anything good.

    Once my provider submitted documentation insisting I be given “appropriate breaks” for my medical condition. The third party service rejected it claiming that breaks are not covered by intermittent FMLA.

    When I asked HR (the messenger) to explain to me the difference between breaks and intermittent FMLA, they couldn’t and decided to accept my paperwork anyway.

    That’s what should have happened with OP as well – when the third party said something weird, HR should have just done the thing.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      They cause so many headaches, they lack context, they make processes more complicated, and they’re rarely cheaper than just hiring another HR person when you take lost time and productivity into account.

      No shame to anyone who works at any of these places I’m sure there are good eggs, but from a business management perspective it’s such a mess. A good HR person is worth their weight in gold, get one in house.

    2. Good Luck*

      I believe one of my Maternity leaves went through this kind of thing. I had to have the doctor sign paperwork and submit it. When I had the baby and it came time to process my claim and get a pay out the service “Couldn’t find a record of me being pregnant at my doctor’s office”.
      I said…
      “Um well the doc just pulled a baby out of me a week ago and she’s literally nursing right now would you like me to send a picture?”

      After I said that they backed off and paid my claim.

  36. nobadcats*

    Sweet tap dancing Jehoshaphat in rollerskates. This a bundle of bungling and mismanagement. No wonder you’re frustrated and feeling like you’ve been gaslit. I’d be hauling gas cans into …. well no, let’s not say that out loud.

    Mmmmrm. I’d be pinging HR and my boss lady to high heaven til this problem was solved. Right now, Boss lady and I are working on Day 2 of me not having email access. IT is being extraordinarily dim. “Can we call her on Teams?” No, ’cause I don’t have access to outlook or teams right now. “Well, we tried calling her on What’s App, and she didn’t answer.” Because I don’t have fvcking What’s App on my fvcking phone. For god’s sack, just CALL me.

    Day 2 of no email/teams/sharepoint access. I think, I might just check out and get my nails done.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      Getting your nails done sounds like the only reasonable solution, to be honest!

    2. Veryanon*

      That seems reasonable! Our office requires MFA using our personal cell phones (I know). My office building does not have coverage for the wireless carrier I use (which, by the way, is one of the main wireless carriers in the US). I told IT and they suggested I just switch to another carrier, like that’s super easy to do. Nopity nope nope nope. I escalated this to my manager and basically told her that if she wants me IN THE OFFICE I need tools to be able to do my job. I had a company-issued cell phone with a different carrier within 2 days.

      1. Quill*

        Very similar, but the 2 factor app decided my phone was too old for it. IT told me “you can buy a passcode generator” during week 2 of not understanding how this could happen. (To be fair I worked in a lab so there was a lot I could accomplish without internet…)

        My response was “you want me to purchase the equipment for my job? Let me get my manager.”

        I had the stupid key fob the next day.

      2. Draginfly7*

        I’m absolutely astonished you were able to get a phone just for MFA. I work in a call center position, and we are required to provide our own cell phones to work from home. While the company could argue that we can work onsite 100 percent of the time to avoid this, there are over 6000 employees at my site. There isn’t enough room for us all to be there at the same time.

        1. Veryanon*

          I work in HR, so it does make sense for me to be available after hours and I don’t like giving out my personal cell # for obvious reasons. I use the company-issued cell to keep up on emails if I don’t feel like logging into my laptop after regular hours, and I do occasionally get calls (not often). Also, the systems I access are critical for my job (HRIS) and I can only access them if I’m on the company network, so I absolutely have to be able to access it.

  37. Nea*

    Starting by saying that OP is doing everything absolutely right and getting the worst possible results for reasons that are not OP’s fault.

    …but this is why I bought my own chair. I don’t care that the office is supposed to pay for it, I care that I spend the least amount of time in pain as possible, so I own my own chair and it has traveled to 4 different buildings with me.

    Yes, it might be stolen. As a deterrent my initials are painted in large obvious letters on the back and engraved in small, easily overlooked place in case the paint is chipped off.

    But the main theft deterrent is that I bought the hot pink model.

  38. Prefer my pets*

    Flashbacks to my (thankfully short) period working for NPS. They had a new building and at some point “the committee” decided that everything should be identical to look nice so there was one “fancy” chair that was approved if you were high enough graded to have your own office and one chair that came in “jumbo” and “regular” approved for everyone else. NO other chairs could be used no matter what (except in conference rooms, which had their own designated chairs…one style for the exec conf rooms, one for the rest of us). This went about as well as you would expect with people having a variety of back issues, heights, body sizes/shapes, old field injuries, etc. Unfortunately, I worked for one of the divisions that still was adamant about it several years later…they barely allowed plants and nothing could peak over the top of the cube half-walls. I was “spoken to” when I brought in a small, black lumbar cushion and foot rest so my feet could touch the floor after my request for a shorter chair was denied.
    That place was lunacy and I’m so grateful I was able to get a job back with my old agency again!

    1. Mitford*

      I worked for a company that wanted everything to look identical in their new open plan office. When we moved in, there were no coat racks or stands. At first we thought it was just because some equipment was still arriving, some work was still being done, etc… But after a couple of months, no coat stands arrived, so we asked. It turned out that the CEO, who loved the new office space design, had decreed that there would be no coat racks on the floor.

      When Facilities was asked where we were to hang out coats, we were told to put them on the backs of our chairs.

      When we pointed out that some coats are too long to hang on the back of a desk chair without getting caught under the wheels all day long, we were told that we could leave them in our cars and just walk in from the garage without them.

      When we pointed out that 1) it gets cold in winter and 2) some people take public transportation, Facilities decided that they would let us all use the coat closet behind the reception desk that was designated for guests’ coats. Facilities failed to buy additional hangers, so it was a free-for-all. The CEO was upset that guests would go to hang up their coats and find it crammed full.

      My hero at that job was an otherwise odious coworker whose desk was near a column in the open plan floor. She came in one day with a big Command Hook, stuck it on the back side of the column where it couldn’t be seen by management, and hung her coat on it. People silently cheered.

  39. Margaret Cavendish*

    Anecdata: We have a hybrid office, where the requirement is to come in 3 days/ week. One of my team members finds the office environment very stressful, to the point that he lies awake nights worrying about it and can’t do his job when he’s here. He submitted a doctor’s note detailing the impact on his cognitive skills, and requesting an accommodation to the hybrid policy so that he comes in only 1 day/ week, and works from home the rest of the time.

    He has a demonstrated need, the accommodation would cost zero dollars and require zero days off work, and it does not disrupt the business in any way. Also, our organization is making a big deal lately about employee mental health. So it should be pretty straightforward, right? Reader, it is not. The third party processer rejected his claim. They acknowledged that he seems to be under stress, but said there was “insufficient medical evidence” and that the stress doesn’t impact his work.

    I’m not sure what “sufficient” medical evidence would be, if not a doctor’s note; and I also don’t know how the processors were able to make an assessment about his job duties, since they never actually asked about them. They also invented another reason that he might be requesting the accommodation – so clearly it’s fine for them to present ideas without medical evidence, but whatever.

    I have no advice for you, OP, but tons of sympathy! I hope you get your chair soon.

    1. The Blue Shore*

      While I have sympathy for most of the stories about denied accomodations here, on this particular one, I don’t. Permanent or near-permanent work from home is not a reasonable accommodation merely because one is experiencing “stress.” Companies have very sound reasons for asking employees to be in the office.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Such as?

        I’m honestly curious. I personally thrive being around others and enjoy working outside of home, but I have seen VERY few arguments (outside of retail) that hold water – PARTICULARLY if you are already doing most of your work via Zoom / Teams / Skype / insert teleworking stuff here.

        1. Enai*

          You see, contracts to rent office space often run very long, ten years or so. So, if the company signs one and then switches to work from home, some bosses are going to feel foolish about the unnecessary expense for the empty space sitting there. Better to have everybody in the office and emit sounds about “synergy” and “water cooler talk”.

          1. The Blue Shore*

            I’m curious why you think “synergies” aren’t a thing, even if the word is overused.

            1. Enai*

              Now I am curious: why do you think I believe synergies aren’t a thing?
              Also: why do you think you know better than Margaret Cavendish whether or not her employee absolutely needs to come into the office? She hasn’t said what he does – for all we know he types up reports from dictation all day or edits video or drafts legal briefs. None of these things require physical proximity to coworkers, just a working phone and tcp/ip connection with enough bandwidth.

        2. The Blue Shore*

          Such as?

          Arguments against work-from-home have been hashed out in multiple other threads over the past year or so. I’m not going to reproduce those — it’s easy enough to look them up — other than to say I find the “all remote work, all the time” case thoroughly unconvincing.

          What I will say: proceeding from this premise, I would deny this request. The ADA does not require any and all accommodations, only “reasonable” accommodations. (I’ll assume “stress” qualifies as a disability for the sake of argument.) Atomizing your employment and never interacting with another employee is not a reasonable ask, and there are plenty of lesser-means solutions to reducing stress.

      2. DataSci*

        Do they? Some obviously do. But a standard office-type “sit at a desk in front of a computer all day”? As far as I can tell, it’s that the execs with big offices with doors and the ability to keep stuff on their desks want to walk past people sitting at all those hot desks.

      3. Garblesnark*

        I’m curious, what care relationship do you have with the person Cavendish is referring to?

        You know, a care relationship? The one thing that would give you insight into whether they need a work accomodation?

      4. Margaret Cavendish*

        I assume you’re not my employee, and you’re not directly involved in his care or his accommodation request? So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it, when I say his mental health issues prevent him from doing his job.

        1. The Blue Shore*

          The third-party claims processor apparently disagreed with you; I don’t see why one should a priori “take your word” over theirs.

          1. SarahKay*

            Given that this thread is full of people pointing out ridiculous behaviour of third-party claims processors, I think it’s not unreasonable to assume that Margaret Cavendish is better placed to judge than you are.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      How on earth is the third party processor able to made medical diagnoses and medical decisions that contradict what an actual doctor has stated? I’d like to see their credentials….

  40. Always Bring Pickles to a Potluck*

    It took me a month and a half to get permission to wear headphones during the day as an ADHD accommodation. I am not surprised.

    1. Bruce*

      Oh wow, I remember a small company I worked for where I had to wear headphones to cover up the VP who would come and harangue the guy sitting in the next cube over… that guy quit about a month after I joined, so the harangues became less frequent. Shortly after that we moved to a new building where my cube was not outside the VP’s office so I did not have to listen to his bluster most of the time…

  41. Firecat*

    Your HR sucks ands isn’t going to change.

    Watch your paychecks for errors and don’t expect them to do a good job if there is any other HR issue.b

  42. Jules the First*

    I, uh, asked my office if the new chair they were prescribing as the standard office chair came with an option for a short seat pan for those of us who are ridiculously short. I even sat in the sample chair to demonstrate the problem. I was told that the chair had won awards for inclusivity and that no alternatives would be entertained. (We are outside the US, so ADA doesn’t apply). I look forward to being able to file a request for a standing desk once the standard chair leaves me walking like an octogenarian…

    I also spent 40 minutes today in a surreal meeting trying to explain to our facilities team that my 6ft7 tall employee needs a desk where the top adjusts in height, not just monitor raisers to accommodate him (the poor man literally does not fit under his desk at the moment…)

    1. The Blue Shore*

      I look forward to being able to file a request for a standing desk once the standard chair leaves me walking like an octogenarian

      If the situation is truly that bad, buy your own chair. No, you shouldn’t have to do that, but you ultimately need to prioritise your own health.

  43. Yellow*

    I order supplies for my company. People will come to me and sheepishly ask for special Dry Erase markers, like they think I’m going to say no to $10 markers. I guess these poor folks have worked in an office like the OPs. This is just absurd.

  44. kiki*

    Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed in your manager for not escalating this on their end at any point. I don’t think they really have standing to be mad at LW if they didn’t do anything to try and help expedite the matter. I’m not saying the manager would have necessarily been successful at expediting– it sounds like there’s a lot wrong at this company– but it’s 100% something in a manager’s purview to do.

  45. Veryanon*

    None of this is normal. When I work on ADA accommodation cases, there are times when I’ll request a detailed document. One recent note I received said that the doctor was releasing the employee to return to work part time. That was it. So I asked for clarification: what does part time mean? How many hours a week/day? How long does this restriction last? Are there other restrictions we should be aware of?
    But in this case, the employee fjust needed a specific kind of chair. It should have been an easy thing for the manager to just order the chair through whatever purchasing system their company uses. It’s ridiculous that it took 5 months for LW to get the chair!

  46. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    I worked in an open office type space (911 dispatch center) where someone needed a special chair as an accommodation. The rule was anyone could use it if they wanted, but when the person with the accommodation was working, they had priority. No one batted an eye. It was no big deal…and people definitely were possessive over chairs. They usually cared about the style more than the literal chair itself.

    Ergonomic chairs are such a basic need for anyone sitting for long periods…wtaf

  47. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    Strategically speaking, I think you made an error by pushing back on taking the c-suite executive’s office. I believe had a serious attempt been made to turf him/her out, this nonsense would have come to a screeching halt. Virtually all situations of this nature are easily solved once someone with enough clout gets involved.

  48. Sindy*

    It sounds like HR just refused to work on your paperwork for whatever reason (probably it was too difficult) and kept praying you didn’t follow up on it. I’ve encountered this a few times when there are some people who just don’t want to do certain things so they won’t until someone with more pull and influence steps on them very, very hard.

    Glad you stood up for yourself and refused to come in until you received your (extremely reasonable) accommodations.

  49. Snarky McSnarkerson*

    Yeah, I would just order the chair and not even bother anyone else. You need a chair? Got an example of an acceptable one? Cool, I’ll order it today.

  50. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    This is sadly normal. I’ve been fighting with my company for 8 months to get a freaking doorknob replaced so a FIRE EXIT is accessible according to the standards set in 1992.

    1. GreenShoes*

      Just make a call to the local fire department. They’ll make sure that they do one of their annual inspections and will note it requiring it to be fixed within X weeks before they return.

      1. HonorBox*

        Seconding this. The inspector will ensure that gets done and done quickly. Or hefty fines…

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, this has to get done RIGHT AWAY and in my experience (ex theater kid who built one too many haunted houses) the fire marshalls love to go on field trips.

  51. JennyEm56*

    Oh my I can relate! I work in higher ed and when I started at my current institution, I was told to go in the basement and find a surplus chair that better meets my needs. When I told them there was none (I needed a high back that goes to the base of my head), I was told that it was something I should’ve negotiated before I started. I ended up buying my own, but admin was never happy about it. Meanwhile, administrators happily sat in Aeron chairs all day.

    I was new to town and not established with a doctor, but I could’ve gone to an urgent care nurse to get a script for a good chair, but was told that wouldn’t help. I have pretty bad scoliosis and my neck is fused. It really doesn’t take an MD to realize that a good chair is a reasonable accommodation from me. That was the only job that it was an issue, since then I’ve always put it as an ADA accommodation when I’ve applied, and I’ve always been greeted with a good high back chair. But geez, when you’re starting a new job after moving, the last fight you want to have is over basic accommodations.

  52. Nightengale*

    One of the main accommodations I needed in medical school was to type rather than handwrite most patient notes. This was in the days before electronic charting at most hospitals. I started working on the process the year before in July and got it sorted in June for a rotation that started in July. 11 months. There was the permissions stage followed by the logistics stage. I had meetings with deans, medical evaluations with documentation, meetings with IT, refusal of the documentation, more evaluations, more meetings. When I brought up the need – in May – to have this solved by July someone tried to placate me that things “take time.”

    They almost – almost – convinced me that this process was acceptable and I was being unreasonable in my expectations.

    Then I graduated and started residency. I asked for typing as an accommodation, verbally, which was granted, verbally in the same conversation. No documentation ever passed hands. There was a 15 minute discussion followed by a few e-mails about logistics and the problem was largely solved, with a need to revisit logistics briefly when I worked in new spaces over the next few years.

    So what you experienced sadly isn’t unheard of but is not necessary in a functional environment and is not OK. Don’t let them act like it is.

  53. Dell*

    In my experience, it’s a selling point that these third party vendors drag out processes and make things much more difficult and time-consuming. That’s how they save the company money – delaying and denying claims. And when someone actually does violate the law, the company and the vendor can point fingers at each other and neither one is obviously liable. This happens at even companies with the best ratings for being disability-friendly. It’s dystopian BS.

  54. Liseusester*

    As the person whose team buys 90% of the furniture for a medium sized British university this is so so bizarre to me! We don’t have a huge amount of flexible/agile working but where we have an employee in one of those spaces who needs a more specialist chair, we just label it up with their name and everyone else who works in the space is instructed to not use it. I am seeing some weird disruptions to supply chains again, so the lead-time on a more specialist chair is back up to about 8-10 weeks in some instances, but my team and I will always pass that information on to the person who needs the chair.

    We do request a DSE assessment from our in-house person who does them if we’re getting a new request, because then other requirements can be picked up! People email us to request a Shiny New Chair either for them or someone they line manage, we say “sure, please can you send across your DSE assessment, or the relevant bits? If you haven’t got one, please contact X.” And then X. sends us the required info, including if there are any extra things needed.

    In the seven or so years I’ve been involved in this I’ve declined exactly one request – a very expensive electric rise and fall desk for an employee on a 0.2fte contract who worked 90% of their 1 day a week from home and which wasn’t recommended by their DSE assessment or our external occupational health assessor – and even then I looped in colleagues who work in space planning to see if this staff member could have their desk space somewhere else where there was already an electric rise and fall desk.

  55. motosubatsu*

    I feel the LW’s pain, well, I suppose more specifically I feel *my* pain. In a twenty year career I’ve never *once* succeeded in actually getting an employer to provide me with chair that doesn’t leave me in pain.

    I either get told some variation of “no” (“they’re too expensive”, “you don’t really need one”, “only executives can have non-standard chairs”) or I get told “yes” and the process drags on so long that I’ve actually left the company before it can materialise – I’m not exaggerating either when I say the current record is 4 YEARS. After that job I was told “yes” I could have one on my first day, as time ticked by without it materialising I offered to purchase one myself and stick an expenses request “don’t do that, I’m ordering yours tomorrow”, when it still didn’t arrive offered again “don’t do that, they’ll never pay out the claim when we’re ordering one for you”, I said I didn’t care if they paid me back, “you can’t H&S won’t allow you to bring chairs in from home”. Needless to say I never got a chair there either.

    What’s the lesson here? That employers don’t give a rat’s ass about health problems unless they affect *them* – so if you need an accommodation for your own long-term health you’re on your own. So if they mess you around – swallow any sense of “fairness” and do what you need to do to look after yourself.

  56. Wilbur*

    Going through some ergonomic stuff right now, boss told me to order what I wanted last week. Should arrive this week. Mentioned I have a doctors note, they responded, “Nobody cares, just order whatever you want.”

  57. I edit everything*

    I work for city government, notorious for hoops and approvals, and I mentioned a new chair to my boss. His response was “Sure. Pick one out, and we’ll order it.” It was here in a couple weeks. Chairs are one of those things that seem expensive to an individual, but on a corporate or government scale, are barely a blip in the budget. It’s ridiculous they spent so much time on this process.

  58. Abogado Avocado*

    LW, yes, this situation is appalling. Assuming your employer has more than 16 employees, please strongly consider filing a complaint with the EEOC regarding said employer’s incredibly stupid and inefficient response to your documented request for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also consider filing a state complaint if your state has mechanisms for protecting those with disabilities.

    Your company’s response has been so bad that they need to be smacked. And the EEOC exists to smack them.

    Consider also filing a retaliation claim with the EEOC based on your boss’s incredibly illegal reaction to you seeking to have your reasonable accommodations actually met.

    As you haven’t yet received your chair, you are still within the period to file (it’s 180 days for private employees and 45 days for government employees).

    Complaining to the EEOC may seem drastic to you, but there will be other employees in the future who will need accommodations from your employer and this is one way to ensure that they actually get them without all the illegal rigamarole you’ve had to deal with.

  59. Anonymoose*

    FYI and I am not a lawyer: in some jurisdictions, 7 months of delay in providing an accommodation has been ruled by courts to be equivalent to a failure to accommodate.

    I don’t know what is optimal to do with this information, and I realize that filing with (e.g.) the EEOC would be a big escalation, but perhaps dropping this tidbit into the right conversation or email could be effective.

  60. Today’ the day*

    Am I the only one who’s anxious that the new chair won’t work for you and you’ll be back to square one? Sending you all positive thoughts-

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      I was thinking this, too … when I was last looking to get a more ergonomic work chair (and admittedly I’m in the UK and was working in the public sector), I got the chance to try various chairs to work out what was best for me. It’s definitely best to try what’s a good fit.

  61. Sarah S*

    One of the really ugly realities about disability accommodations in the workplace is the gulf between what is legal and what is normal. I’m a therapist who specializes in working with chronically ill and disabled patients. If you’re a currently able-bodied, or newly disabled person, it can be hard to believe how many companies will resist making accommodations, and how few real protections there are. The LW deserved a speedier process. I’m not suggesting a 5-month wait is reasonable. But in the scheme of things, that’s pretty common and a fairly positive outcome. Disabled workers deserve a lot better than they usually get.

      1. littlehope*

        Oh yeah. There seems to be a widespread misconception among able-bodied people that if you’re disabled and need accommodations and adaptive kit, you’ll, you know…*get* them. After all, There Are Laws.
        This is…not typically the case, it turns out.

        1. Quill*

          I think it’s some corollary to the Shirley principle (AKA, people supporting highly restrictive laws because “surely” there will be an exception for oh, following that law will definitely give someone sepsis etc.)

          Because people will both go “surely it’s obvious that you need X and it will arrive on time, intact, and cost an appropriate amount of money” and then a handful of thoughts later support rules to make you jump through even MORE hoops in the name of not spending money if at all possible.

    1. CL*

      Well said. My local grocery had two entrances. One was ADA compliant and the other wasn’t due to using the nearest accessible parking for curbside pickup (it was an issue even before COVID). They recently closed the non-compliant entrance due to shoplifters but my cynical initial assumption was that they closed it rather than become compliant with the law.

  62. Just Another Zebra*

    Petty or not, this is something I would leave over.

    I have issues with most of my joints (it’s a genetic thing) and over my nearly seven years at my company have needed some accommodations. First it was a new chair, then a more ergonomic mouse, then something that lifted my monitors so it didn’t strain my neck and shoulders. Not only did my office accommodate me with no fuss, but offered the “perk” to the rest of the staff. No doctor’s notes or flaming hoops or crazy antics. It just… got done.

  63. Hedgehog in a ball*

    I hereby volunteer to be your chair’s security guard, if/when it arrives.

  64. Jackie*

    I feel this on a very real level. I am hearing impaired and requested that my company add Transcription service to Teams. This should be a minor request. It turned into a complete fiasco. They also wouldn’t accept a doctor’s note as it didn’t explain why I couldn’t hear, just that it is permanent. When I finally talked to higher ups on HR, they asked “if you are really deaf, why can you talk?” I am beginning to think that all HR training should include an Accomodations 101 class. I do think you should give feedback on this bloated process. Be that to your manager or someone higher up.

    1. Veryanon*

      This is awful. I have trained all the HR people I work with never to ask for medical or diagnostic info, but to focus on what the restrictions are (e.g., can’t lift over 10 lbs, can’t stand more than 10 minutes, etc.) and what the requested accommodation is (needs to take a break every hour). I also tell employees not to offer me that information (although as a practical matter a lot of times they do anyway). I don’t need to know what your medical issue is, I just need to know what restrictions you have and what the company can offer you to help you do your job.

    2. Observer*

      They also wouldn’t accept a doctor’s note as it didn’t explain why I couldn’t hear, just that it is permanent.

      Where do you even start with such stupidity?!?!

      But, I think that the simplest place is that the ADA actually does not specify causes, just symptoms. So it doesn’t matter WHY you are deaf, it just matters that this is the case, and that it’s permanent.

    3. Enai*

      “if you are really deaf, why can you talk?”

      Do … do they talk with their ears? Do they think that if you become deaf or hard of hearing, you lose your voicebox?

      I wouldn’t know what to reply to such an asinine remark.

      1. Quill*

        If you don’t know how hearing and speaking work, why are you allowed to be in HR?

      2. Cary*

        They think that the only way to be deaf is to be born deaf. They think this because they don’t want to think about acquired disabilities. Then they’d have to admit it could happen to them.

  65. reg*

    lw, i empathize. during early lockdown i had a similar issue. i requested a stamp for my signature because we had to hand-sign pages of documentation. even though i’d submitted proof that i was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, hr said i needed a doctor to specifically write that i needed a stamp because of my cts. i objected to that on the grounds that our healthcare coverage is garbage, therefore i didn’t have a doctor at the time, and i shouldn’t have to pay to be seen by a provider to ask them to write this letter. they reluctantly said i could use a stamp as long as i didn’t let anyone have access to it, only to change their minds when my boss said it was good they were letting me do that because so many workers had been complaining about the paperwork. “if it’s a problem for everyone, we need explicit documentation to explain why you need to be an exception.” after i stopped seeing red, i decided to shorten my signature to just my initials and no one said anything.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*


      That’s a stupid reason to deny an exemption. I can absolutely understand why having a signature stamp around might make people wary from a security standpoint, and why handsigning things is necessary, but there’s a huge difference between “ugh, this is a nuisance” and “ugh, this is a nuisance that’s causing me actual physical injury”. They should have at minimum let you have some sort of stamp and then if everyone was complaining about the process tried to find out if there were a better way to maintain the same level of security without having everyone irritated by all the paperwork.

    2. Ewwww*

      Did you also change your initials to the letters F, U, H, and R? If your handwriting is especially scrawly, no one could ever prove a thing. :D

  66. Mitford*

    A couple of jobs ago I worked at a dysfunctional 501(c)(3) organization that provided retirement plan services to state and local governments for their employees. On my first day, I was led to my cubicle where there was a clearly broken chair. It wasn’t a question of interpretation, and it wasn’t a question of age. It was broken.

    One wheel was wonky and the plastic armrests were cracked and all torn up from being at a height where they impacted the underside of the desk when the chair was shoved under it by the cleaning crew every night to vacuum. Turned out that the armrests no longer adjusted and were stuck in that position. Because of the wonky wheel, the seat listed to one side, and my back started to hurt within by lunchtime. Like many commenters here, I have pre-existing back problems. The torn-up armrests routinely snagged my clothing. I’d treated myself to a new dress for my first day there, and it snagged so bad it was ruined. I started wearing a cute denim jacket over my dresses because it wouldn’t snag and got flack for wearing denim on days that weren’t Friday.

    The organization was astonished! astonished! that I wanted a better chair. I wasn’t even asking for a specific ergonomic chair that was different from the standard issue one; I just wanted a standard issue chair that wasn’t broken. I kept be told that it wasn’t time for a “chair refresh” for the organization. Desk chairs were refreshed for everyone on a schedule of every X years, and no exceptions could be made. Well, apparently, during the last chair refresh, the organization had cheaped out and the chairs that had been purchased were not the best quality and deteriorated at a faster pace than anticipated by the sacred chair refresh schedule, which wasn’t schedule for another 18 months. So, whenever someone who had a chair that was in decent condition left the company, an employee with a less desirable chair who swap their lemon for a good one, meaning that new employees were always getting the POS ones. There were no good ones squirreled away by Facilities for when things broke. They’d all been allocated at some point.

    I spoke to HR, I spoke to Facilities, and I got nowhere unless I was prepared to go the ADA accommodation route, which I did start. Finally, however, my great-grandboss went to bat for me and another new employee in his department and got HR and Facilities to agree to an out-of-cycle company-wide partial chair refresh to replace the worst of the worst and also to accommodate the fact that head count was increasing, meaning that there was actually a chair shortage. He said getting peace in the Middle East would have been easier.

    Everyone who got a new chair was expected to be cravenly grateful to HR and Facilities for getting a new one and everyone whose chair wasn’t deemed to be crappy enough to be replaced at that point was deeply and bitterly resentful.

    Also at that organization, a coworker in my department requested a standing desk riser to put on her regular desk because of health reasons. Facilities bought here a nice, wood-toned one that made things much easier for her. One day, she came in to find that it had been replaced by a perfectly acceptable but less attractive one. She called Facilities and they hadn’t replaced, but did recognize the substitute that appeared. One of the organization’s lawyers had decided that she should have the better-looking one so she’d come in over the weekend and swapped them.

    Man, I don’t miss that place. At all.

    1. GreenShoes*

      ” everyone whose chair wasn’t deemed to be crappy enough to be replaced at that point was deeply and bitterly resentful.”

      “One of the organization’s lawyers had decided that she should have the better-looking one so she’d come in over the weekend and swapped them.”

      Well I guess that answers the question of why they replaced everything at once :)

    2. Observer*

      Man, I don’t miss that place. At all.

      I can imagine! I’m glad it’s a FORMER work place.

      It sounds like HR were a bunch of inept doofuses trying to corral a bunch of bratty kindergarten children.

    3. pally*

      What is it with people who must adamantly adhere to some artificial time schedule in lieu of remedying actual discomfort/pain for an employee? Do they think people can simply put their discomfort on hold?

  67. Marna Nightingale*

    I trust that the chair, when it arrives, will be upholstered with a cheerful tropical pattern featuring bunches of ripe yellow tropical fruit.

    Because this is TOTALLY Bananachair.

  68. Qwerty*

    OP – I received a brand new ergonomic chair* without even having to a request it. I went on short term disability leave for a week and then worked remotely for 2weeks due to a back injuury from working long hours. Came back to a brand new chair at my desk. Not sure if anything was even wrong with my previous chair, they just were not going to risk it. My place had competent HR. (about 6months later the entire culture around long hours also changed dramatically, also related)

    So no – your work place is incredibly disorganized and ridiculous

    *Technically it was a brand new version of our standard office chair which is supposed to be ergonomic (for dudes, still didn’t fit me). Those things break down and no one wants to replace them because they cost a thousand dollars (over 10 yrs ago).

  69. Completely Marshmallow*

    My workplace has been implementing a similar carrot-or-stick approach to accommodations.

    We were ordered back to office 2-3 days a week a few months ago. For most of us, our original offices (and any prior accommodations) are gone, and we are supposed to be hoteling.

    When asking about accommodations be they complex (furniture, location needs) or simple (keyboards) we have been told that we can only get them approved if we agree to RTO 5 days a week , in return for which supposedly we get a fixed work point with the required accommodations I guess.

    Nobody has provided an answer if we can be mostly 5 days a week but with the occasional at home day for the kind of circumstantial reasons that would have been non-issues in the past (e.g. severe weather such as ice storms, chronic illness flare-up, waiting for delivery or repair windows) if they weren’t super frequent.

    Jury is out on whether this is intended to be an ablist policy prevent people from requesting accommodations or if the whole “Covid is over we must return to offices because C-suite needs to see the peoples to know that they are working” political crap is just so extreme that the ablism is collateral damage.

    I’m embracing the power of and.

    1. Observer*

      My workplace has been implementing a similar carrot-or-stick approach to accommodations.

      What does that even mean?

      I did read the rest of your comment, and your employers are, to put it mildly, atrocious.

      But what they are doing is almost certainly not legal. Especially if they are using FT RTO as a way to keep people from asking for reasonable accommodations. Neither using *legally required* reasonable accommodations as an incentive nor punishing people for asking for those accommodations are acceptable. But the latter is truly beyond the pale.

  70. Elizabeth West*


    No, it should not have taken this long. No, it is not your fault. No, your manager should NOT hold it against you. Yes, HR is full of asshole bees.

  71. pally*

    They aren’t worried about chair theft; they are worried everyone else will request similar ergonomically correct chairs or work set-ups. They fear the cost for such accommodations.

    Back in the day, my sister’s workplace resisted ergonomically correct workspaces until workers were dropping “like flies” from carpal tunnel (and worse). It became a real issue with getting the work done on time. Then they brought in consultants who created the proper workspaces for every employee. And guess what? No more injuries!

  72. SMH*

    On day 31 an email sent to grand boss and HR stating that your lawyer is reviewing the process as it is taking so long to accommodate a reasonable request would have probably solved this problem faster. In prior offices I have seen people not accommodated for reasonable requests including chairs or equipment and the cases that were resolved quickly always mentioned a lawyer was retained or being consulted. It sucks but seems to be the only stick that worked.
    I really hope your chair doesn’t suck when it arrives.

  73. Momofpeanut*

    So is this where we put our nutso stories about reasonable accommodation?

    Long story short – I have a chronic pain condition which flares occasionally and is alleviated by elevating the affected leg, keeping fabric off it, and applying ice and/or heat. Employer allows remote work one or two days a week years beginning in 2008. Dr and I build this into pain management plan.

    New director comes in and ends program, saying we all need to give 110%. I file for reasonable accommodation to continue to do the same thing I have been doing. Denied. I obtain a lawyer, who writes a letter I submit with my appeal, demonstrating how there is NO WAY that letting me do something I have been doing for years is an undue hardship to my employer. Denied. I appeal to the State Civil Service Commission who responds with a pithy comment basically calling director on the BS. After winning the case, I go to my boss to ask when I can resume teleworking and he tells me I have to wait the 45 days for the agency to appeal – at the direction of the director.

    1. Trek*

      So did you end up winning or did you leave the company? Curious as to what ended up happening.

  74. Zarniwoop*

    Re upset manager.
    Maybe say “Finally I can come in to the office!”
    (Whether or not you really wanted to.)

  75. Moose*

    I’m curious about the third party used to process this request–I’ve never heard of a third party being used to process employee requests like this. Is it like an HR-type service for companies without full HR departments? Or something else?

  76. Grad School Attempt 2*

    I almost wonder if your company is viewing the chair not as an accommodation, or even as a financial expense, but as a special privilege or a sign of social status. Like, if ordinarily, only people above level X in the hierarchy get custom office equipment, then maybe they are viewing OP’s accommodation not as “OP gets a chair” but as “OP gets artificially boosted to VP level” or something. That would explain (a) why they’re so grumpy about it and why there’s been so much pushback and (b) why solutions like “Give OP a C-Suite executive’s office” occur to them and make sense to them.

    (Obviously, if they are thinking about it this way, they are very much misinterpreting the situation. But I do feel like a lot of the people who push back against accommodations view it in this sort of “special privileges”/”privileges correspond to one’s level in the hierarchy” way.)

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Oh yes, I can see this as being a status thing. I worked at a place that had 2 different types of chairs. Neither of which were extremely expensive or fancy. The better chairs had a better cushioned back and were better adjustable and just more durable. The bad chairs were like the cheap chairs you get at Walmart. So many were broken that you couldn’t sit on them and they would often collapse.
      To get a good chair you had to have a doctor’s note and your team lead would make a sign with your name on it and their initials so people wouldn’t steal chairs that people “needed”. It was extremely stupid. If they gave everyone good chairs there wouldn’t have been a problem. But people would fight for those chairs.

      1. Quill*

        The last place I worked that had chair drama was because we could get new lab stools… but couldn’t get rid of the broken ones. So there was a chair graveyard in a corner of the lab, and the drama was that we were in the corner, so other groups kept contributing to the graveyard… which was also where we stored some of our supplies.

  77. HonorBox*

    OP, I hate that this happened (nay, is still happening since you don’t have the chair yet) to you. I asked for a new chair at work and our office manager asked me to send her the link. It shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as it has been for you.

    All that said, regarding your boss and their reaction. I would definitely err on the side of conversation, but that’s me and my preference. I think it is worth raising the topic sooner than later simply because you’ve felt some tension. “I’m glad that’s all over and done with. I appreciate your patience with me because it helped me stay patient despite the ridiculous hoops HR and the vendor had me jump through.” It points out that you were not in control of the situation and you didn’t cause the issues. And if your boss is even slightly on the positive side of neutral, they’re going to ask for more information about what those hoops are. Someone in their spot might have a better opportunity to help correct this kind of ridiculousness for others in the future. If I was your boss, I’d definitely want to hear about that because you won’t be the last person to request an accommodation… and the next person’s might be more complex than just asking for a chair.

  78. Laura Petrie*

    I remember a few years ago I needed a new chair. I’d been given a specific chair to meet my health needs, but went on a year long secondment. When I returned to my substantive post, the person who covered my role and was LIVID I was back wouldn’t let me have my chair.

    The chair that had been put at my desk was broken and quite dangerous as it tipped forward. Plus it wasn’t supportive enough for my back.

    I wasn’t asking for anything fancy, just a chair with a fully adjustable back and inflatable cushion thing inside. Plus, my actual chair was broken.

    I was told I needed approval from the most senior manager, HR plus occupational health for my chair and I had to get someone out to assess my workspace! Meanwhile I still had to use the broken chair.

    Several weeks later, during which occupational health accidentally sent be someone else’s confidential medical info, I chase up my chair with the woman who ordered it. “Oh, is your chair broken, we have a spare version of the one we ordered you in our office. You shouldn’t be sitting on a broken chair”

    I was dreading going through the whole rigmarole when I changed jobs at the same employer. I took a deep breath, asked my boss and he immediately asked the woman who orders office supplies to get something suitable for me.

    Why is getting an appropriate chair so difficult?!

  79. Victoria Everglot*

    Wait, why did the *vendor* care so much? As long as someone’s willing to pay for it it shouldn’t matter if the note is signed with a chihuahua paw print. Once HR clears it the vendor should only be asking for payment and delivery date. I’d be considering new vendors if I were in charge, if only because their nonsense cost my employee a lot of productive time.

    As for the annoyed manager, is it possible they’re annoyed at the situation, not the letter writer? As in, explanations don’t matter at this point and no amount of apologies or details will get the last 6 months back so you might as well just move forward.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I don’t think it was the vendor as in the place they purchased the chair. It sounds like this company has some other 3rd party company that does things like ADA requests, which is why they needed the doctors note, etc.

  80. Selina Luna*

    Situational irony: a solid gold chair, inlaid with rubies would be ridiculously uncomfortable.

  81. Invisible fish*

    I need to know what chair was selected and where I can order it, because apparently this chair is so special it will solve all my problems – not just in sitting, but in life.

  82. starsaphire*

    Here’s how this goes at my workplace:

    New employee is hired, is scheduled for an ergonomic evaluation the first week. Professional ergo evaluator comes in, looks over the cube, discusses *every possible* ergo adjustment, shares info on stretches, taking breaks, etc., then helps you put in the facilities request.

    Within a week your new chair/footrest/keyboard tray/standing desk/whatchamacallits arrive, are installed for you by the facilities team, and everything’s done.

    OP, I am so sorry for all this nonsense, and good on you for pushing back re: working from home. If your boss *ever* brings it up, point out how these things are done in normal companies, and reiterate your utter shock and amazement at how poorly it was handled (accusations of lying??? Bananatuxedo levels of incompetence!) any time he tries to put any of it on you.

  83. ragazza*

    For the money all that time and effort cost, they could’ve bought you like three Aeron chairs.

  84. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    What a horrible bureaucratic nightmare. Guessing it’s government or academia. I have the world’s worst office chair, had to try to fix it myself with duct tape and a hose clamp because it won’t stop slowly lowering all the way to the ground, but I dared not mention it to past employer because even a logical request made them tick a box against you in the “complainer” column. Hope the chair arrives & that no one steals it, good luck OP. Also hope maybe you find a less insanity-inducing job if possible one day.

  85. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    This sadly does not surprise me. My coworker, a taller woman, got an ergonomic assessment done.

    To get that done at work, you need a doctor’s note. It was obtained, the assessment done and a sit-stand recommended. This was all done before the pandemic. We all start trickling back into the office mid-2022 and this coworker remarks, hey, I never got my sit-stand…

    And the person she had been dealing with was on medical leave. We found a solution but yowza, it was not made a priority.

  86. Is it Sauce or Gravy?*

    OP here! First off, thank you all for the kind words, support and confirming I was not in fact losing it! To address a few items:

    – Some are speculating as to what industry I work in. I can’t get into the specifics, but know that I work in non-clinical healthcare (i.e. not a doctor’s office). So yes, the humor here is not lost on me.
    – I admit that I did ask for a pretty nice chair that is a few hundred dollars, and had this worked into my doctor’s note actually. I did this because as some suggested, I have this set up in my home office. I’ve tried soooo many chairs and ergonomic things over the years, and damn it I want to be comfortable! Maybe I’m a little entitled, but the idea of grunting through an excruciatingly painful chair knowing I have a perfectly good one at home sounded ridiculous to me. Company also purchased a refurbished version, so cost was even less. Additionally, I had a feeling the company could try to bait and switch me (i.e. buying a chair that was ‘ergonomic’ but still really crappy), so I thought to cut through the crap and simply asked for the nice chair up front, and made it sound like I was doing them a favor (“I would hate for you guys to keep having to order chair after chair for me. Let’s just order the one I know works for me and call it a day!”)
    – I am also unsure why a third party is being used here. The response I got was that for a company of this size, it would be impossible for them to process all of these items manually. With that said, we have someone on HR whose sole job is to process these requests. My understanding is HR staff who work in benefits are juggling several different workstreams (insurance plans/brokering that accompanies it, FMLA absences, other compliance activities) So yeah, I also don’t know what’s going on here.
    – I really appreciate the support and ideas for how to talk to my manager about this more. I admit they have been more in the dark here than I would like, but that’s not my preference or doing. Every time I tried to bring it up, they seemed uninterested, didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation, or we had more pressing project work to discuss and this fell to the waist side. I appreciate having some talking points that I could work into a discussion with them about this. We do complete an informal mid-year feedback cycle this summer, and I am still worried they will find a way to work this into the feedback, but I will at least have some strategies for framing this, so hopefully they will understand.

    Thank you again everyone!

  87. SB*

    OP is 100% lying. They actually requested the Iron Throne & this is why it took so long & went through such an unnecessarily convoluted process…this is the only reasonable explanation for the hoops OP was forced to jump through in order to get a chair.

  88. CLC*

    When I was in my 20s i was working at this company with super cheap chairs. I have very short legs and I kept like sliding off the chair all day and there was no way to adjust it anymore than I already had. One day I was almost on the floor and my back was killing me. I put the chair aside and grabbed a different type of (much better) chair from the conference room so I could continue working. Within an hour the office manager was at my desk saying the CEO wanted to know why I was sitting in one of the “expensive chairs” I said I keep sliding off and it’s hard to work and starting to cause a lot of pain. She said well you can’t sit on that chair. I said ok can I order a new chair? And she just said no and walked away.

  89. Ridiculous Penguin*

    I have a form of blood cancer that means I itch uncontrollably (to the point of my skin bleeding from scratching) when I’m hot.

    I was teaching during the summer in a room that was 84° and requested one with better air conditioning. I was told I needed to get an accommodation from HR. When I called HR to do that, they said it was a maintenance issue. After they finally “let” me file paperwork for the accommodation, I had to get a physical exam from one of their doctors to confirm that my doctor and I weren’t lying. I was asked all kinds of things about my diagnosis that had nothing to do with my cancer or my accommodation (eg, do you get tired easily? do you ever get headaches?).

    It was truly the most bizarre thing — my boss and coworkers were really confused about why the facilities people couldn’t just change my room assignment.

  90. Quill*

    Third party also says hilarious things like my doctor “probably doesn’t exist because we tried calling them once and got a machine.”

    This really stuck out to me as bannanapants bat guano. Are there real humans at this company? Because you would think there would be at least ONE of them familiar with the concept of an answering machine in a place of business…

    1. Jaybeetee*

      And doctors offices are so well-known for being easy to contact and always picking up the phone when you call…

      1. Quill*

        Doctors’ offices, the places that famously are never busy and always have staff to answer your calls

  91. Jaybeetee*

    OP, just to add to the chorus of “not normal”:

    I work for government. Everything is slow as hell, a bureaucratic nightmare, and you need five layers of approval to sneeze.

    I got a physiotherapist note for an ergo assessment. Got the ergo assessment, was recommended a certain type of keyboard, mouse, and a fancy-pants chair that literally needed to be custom-made to accommodate my fat ass (i.e. I apparently measured literally one inch over the width the standard seat pan was designed for. Half an inch each side, which was an issue I’d never noticed, and therefore needed a plus-size seat for the specific ergo chair they’d recommended for me that didn’t normally come in plus-size).

    Much emailing back and forth between the EA and the vendor, to the point that the EA literally called out the time and effort involved in the ask. I was cc’d on everything, and the words “plus-size” were tossed around uncomfortably often.

    But… all in all, I remember the entire process taking a few weeks, a month or two at most, even with a custom-made chair. My fat-lady lumbar support chair was brought in, measured and calibrated to an inch of its life to my body specifically… then I changed departments a few months later and the equipment came with me!

    And that was a customized order moving at the speed of government bureaucracy. 5 months is BS.

  92. A person*

    This sort of thing has happened at my company with all of the shared services that have gone to third party ticketing systems (IT, purchasing, HR, and administrative services). It takes 10 times longer In calendar time and at least that much more effort on the part of the end user to try to navigate the faceless nameless third party, call center style ticket services. I’m pretty sure that beep means it’s just a big call center. I hear that when we talk to our third party “help desks” too. Everything is scripted and the people answering the phones are only trained to read the script. I would agree with the advice that it’s not reasonable but if you work for a big company that has outsourced such services I’d say it’s becoming increasingly more “normal”.

    I experience similar things at least monthly with our various outsourced services. I firmly believe that outsourcing will be the death of the large corporations.

  93. inspector*

    It took the better part of a year for my employer to switch to cleaning products that didn’t make me sick to breathe while in the same building as them. I submitted multiple pieces of documentation and they…just ignored me. I nearly lost my job and was very sick. All because they didn’t feel like making a simple switch to fragrance free cleaning products in the one building that I worked in.

  94. Mmm.*


    I recently got ADA accommodations for a yet-unknown illness. I asked my office if they need any kind of documentation, and they said no…and instead OFFERED to buy me anything I need, like a new chair, despite me not asking for it. I, thankfully, don’t need one as of now. But my dear lord.

    Also, here’s a novel idea: They should tell the staff to not use this chair. Or even this desk. Hot desking is a terrible idea anyway, and I asked for this exact accommodation for my ADHD/OCD before the pandemic, when we were about to stop doing it. Let me consistently have a desk. (Turns out this was a general consensus, too…)

  95. ErgonomicSmergonomic*

    Try having to go in the other direction. Most places I’ve worked have ergonomic chairs but ergonomic chairs are actually notoriously bad for most people with back issues (glad they help you OP). Having to explain I can’t sit in the ergonomic chair and need a chair with a straight back when the company deliberately spends extra money to buy “more comfortable chairs” for employees is not lots of fun.

  96. Insert cool name here.*

    My job wouldn’t provide an ergonomic chair for me when I asked. Just gave me this kind of brace thing that fit over the back of the chair..I guess to help the back pain I was in. It didn’t help. If we ever have to go back in the office, I will be in so much pain, our chairs didn’t even have arms sometimes.

  97. Helen*

    It took me 9 months to get a DSE chair. due to changes in providers at work. I am short. The standard office chairs are for people with longer legs. I can’t sit on the seats and bend my legs. I have it now. BUT officially we all hot desk. My job needs 2 screens. My team have paid for that. It is a good setup. People come in before me and use it and adjust the settings on my chair. I can manage a day or 2, after that I need physio to sort out the pain I get from sitting elsewhere. I’m fed up of battling with people and being told they were there first :0(

  98. sumpin likedat*

    Holy cow… I asked for a different chair because I am fairly certain that one of my three pregnancies or several lower abdominal surgeries broke my tailbone at some point, and sitting in anything other than a) a super cushy couch type deal or b) an office chair with a mesh seat will cause severe tailbone pain after about an hour or so. I didn’t even have a doctor’s note, though I did offer to get one if needed. My manager told me to find one that wasn’t crazy expensive and I had it under a week. This whole situation makes me insane for you.

  99. Kevin*

    I recently learned the process to get a better chair and cushion at my company involves a request being approved by nine separate managers.

    Cushions can only come through the approved store and cost $90.

  100. jojo*

    If it ever occurs again tell them you need an ADA accommodation . Your doctor is willing to write the paperwork needed for the chair.

  101. Zulema K*

    Not in the US, but I once got in a months-long back-and-forth with our HR about one of my employees’ accommodations for a back problem. Our jobs require us to work from several different sites; she was requesting a lumbar roll that she could carry from site to site, that would cost around $30, with an accompanying doctor’s note. The HR teammate we worked with was extremely annoyed by the whole thing, seemed to imply we would need to change my employee’s work designation to fully remote since there was no way we could accommodate her at every site, and said loudly (in front of my employee’s direct reports) that she wasn’t sure she would be able to come into the office anymore at all, which caused some concern among her direct reports that we had to squash without revealing any medical information. It was unreal. Soon after, we all went remote for Covid anyway.

  102. BingeCrosby*

    (Assuming OP works at a private company.) I work in the public sector, and every time somebody makes a comment about “how inefficient the government is,” I think of stories like this one. It’s a management of humans problem, not a private / public sector problem.

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